Editor's Comment

Marijuana as medicine? Not now

THE call by the Medical Association of Zambia to use marijuana for medicinal purposes should be taken cautiously.
Zambia Medical Association president Aaron Mujajati is calling for a national indaba that will deliberate on legalising the use of medicinal marijuana.
The association feels it is now time for Zambia to take a position on the legalisation of medicinal marijuana adding that the best practices out of medicinal marijuana should be examined and any benefits be retained.
Being medical professionals, they could have their own reasons in making this call.
As the Association has stated, by making this call, it is going by some countries that use marijuana as a medicine. And they probably have been privy to the benefits it has on patients.
The drug is used to relieve pain, assist appetite and suppress nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy.
It is also argued that marijuana can help millions of people in the world suffering from illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.
But at the same time, we are aware that marijuana, being a psychotropic drug, is prone to abuse. This is because it possesses properties that are bound to impact negatively on an individual who takes it.
Psychotropic drugs affect the central nervous system, resulting in a negative effect on how one’s brain processes information. This impact can lead to a change in mood, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and even behaviour.
Despite the controversy that surrounds the use of marijuana in this way, about six states in the United States of America have legalised the drug for use as medicine.
In about 15 countries, which include Belgium, Canada, Argentina, Israel, Italy, North Korea, The Netherlands and Mexico, have either legalised it as a medicine or it is allowed for use in limited quantities only.
It is also noted that in the European countries which have legalised the use of cannabis for medical purposes, national governments control and regulate the medicinal cannabis.
From these countries, it is important to note that the use of the drug, whether as a medicine or not, is strictly controlled so that it does not end up in wrong hands.
The legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes poses a number of challenges in a country like Zambia, which does not have adequate systems to ensure that the drug is used only as a medicine.
Already, the Drug Enforcement Commission has challenges in bringing down levels of abuse of drugs, including dagga, due to limitations in staffing and logistical support.
It is mostly likely in view of such challenges that Section 9 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of CAP. 96 of the laws of Zambia, which provides for the cultivation of medicinal marijuana, has not been operationalised.
Where DEC has managed to bring to book those who abuse the drug, we have seen horrifying amounts of the crop been illegally cultivated by those who flout the law.
The current policy does not allow the use of marijuana as medicine, basically to guard against abuse of the substance and we want to commend government for its efforts in ensuring that the levels of drug abuse are brought down.
Considering the colossal amounts of money that can accrue from drugs, the temptation in a country like ours is for the money and ignore the medicinal benefits.
Maybe we need to wait a bit more as a country before we can be confident that we are able to embark on the use of dagga as a medicine.

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