Namibia Not Ready to Legalise Cannabis - Shanghala

JUSTICE minister Sacky Shanghala says Namibia is not ready to deal with the devastating effects from the use of cannabis, and therefore cannot legalise it.

Shanghala said the country is already struggling to deal with the ever-growing effects of the abuse of alcohol, and cannot take on another hurdle by legalising cannabis.

He made these remarks in the National Assembly on Thursday in response to Swanu president Tangeni Iijambo, who had said the criminalisation of cannabis was violating the fundamental rights of Namibian citizens.

Last month, The Namibian reported that Iiyambo said the current laws regulating the use of the drug could also be infringing on people's privacy and cultural beliefs.

Although Shanghala said the weed has potential therapeutic effects to ease cancer symptoms, it was not reason enough to legalise it.

"There are sufficient legal and efficacious medicines that do what cannabis is purported to do, and there has never been a need from the medical fraternity to substitute those medicines with cannabis," he stated.

He added that cannabis has addictive properties, and can cause psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

"It has detrimental effects on cognition, and can impair the ability to drive or work. In some cases, reported side-effects include anxiety, short-term memory and recall issues and hallucinations," Shanghala stated.

The minister recommended that instead of focusing on legalising cannabis, solutions for the country's alcohol abuse problem should be addressed first.

"We hardly have enough psychiatrists to handle even criminal psychiatric evaluations; so how are we going to deal with an explosion of psychotic prone symptoms in society? We hardly even talk of mental health issues. We are in denial about depression, imagine the explosion of depression cases flowing from the use of marijuana, if legalised," Shanghala stressed.

The law regulating the use of cannabis - the Abuse of Dependence-Producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act, No. 41 of 1971 - criminalises any person who uses or is found in possession of cannabis.

People found contravening this law are liable to a fine not exceeding N$30 000, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years, or to both such fine and imprisonment.

"Cannabis (dealing and usage) is a serious offence in Namibia, because Namibia is not able to deal with the devastating effects of the drug on our people," he reiterated.

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