People who want dagga to be legalised have protested outside the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, since the case started. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/ANA Pictures
Pretoria - British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt has maintained his stance that no drug, including cannabis, was completely harmless.

He reiterated the sentiment countless times during day seven of the trial and during the State’s first opportunity to cross-examine him.

Nutt, a specialist in the research of drugs and their effects on the brain, stood by his 20 years of research that cannabis harms were relatively low and didn't warrant criminalisation alongside harder drugs. The professor said he was strongly against criminal sanctions and punishment of people who used cannabis due to the low level of harm it posed.

“It is morally contentious and irrational for the state to ban one substance with low harm, while at the same time almost encouraging the use of another more harmful substance.”

“The state not only allows and promotes alcohol consumption, but has the moral obligation to allow people a safer alternative such as dagga,” Nutt said.

He used the Netherlands as an example, illustrating the positive effects of legalising cannabis to the court and prosecutor Tom Bokaba SC. Nutt said in legalising cannabis, the government of that country was able to keep users away from the black market where they ran the risk of being exposed to heroin, crystal meth, cocaine and other dangerous drugs.

The State took Nutt to task for his comments on dagga being good for the side effects of HIV drugs, to which he replied: “Cannabis medicine is not a cure but it can reduce symptoms, chronic pains and make the lives of patients living with chronic disorders better.”

Pastor Trevor Buckland, from the Christian Restoration Ministries and founder of Oasis of Hope Rehabilitation Centre, rubbished Nutt’s sentiments that dagga was not a gateway substance.

Commenting outside as protests against the trial to legalise dagga continued inside court, Buckland said having interacted and assisted numerous addicts on their road to recovery, they had received testimony that peer pressure, cigarettes and dagga led them to harder drugs.

The pastor said young people in colleges and universities were constantly bombarded with the substances despite them being illegal. Legalising it would make things worse. "We as leaders will have no leg to stand on once it is legalised. The legal system would be making a very big mistake if it legalises dagga. We agree with his statements about the destructive effects of alcohol and the increase in road fatalities.

"That's why we're against all substances."

Pretoria News