OPINION: Get off your marijuana high horse

Last week on the news, I saw images of police choppers spraying cannabis crops with Monsanto poison in Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape. Over 500 acres of the plant, which were due for harvest at the end of the month, were destroyed.

The producers have lost out. They're now counting their losses. This got me thinking. Why is dagga illegal in South Africa when alcohol and cigarettes are not? Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and around 70 that can cause cancer.

Tobacco is so dangerous it can kill you even though you don't smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1964, at least 2,500,000 non-smokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.

At the same time, many people die every year because of alcohol abuse throughout the country. One of the biggest contributors to road accidents is booze. Recently, Ukhozi FM presenter Chilli M came out warning people against alcohol abuse. He has admitted his addiction to alcohol and now wants to help others. He reportedly stopped drinking alcohol in January after doctors warned him that he would not live much longer if he continued.

His story is not unique. So many families and relationships have been destroyed by alcohol abuse and yet it continues to be advertised on television, print media and radio.

So why is government so scared of the herb? Why trust society to make up its mind when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, but deny them that option when it comes to marijuana?

The late IFP MP Mario Ambrosini died advocating for the legalisation of the use of cannabinoids for medical purposes. Ambrosini, who was battling late-stage lung cancer, said unconventional and illegal medical treatment extended his life expectancy. He confirmed publicly he was using dagga medically.

Let me ask again, why is society so anti-marijuana? Is there research that suggests it's more dangerous than alcohol? Or are we getting a kick from putting people behind bars for possession of small amounts of marijuana?

Lastly, destroying dagga fields and putting people in over-crowded jails isn't going to stop them from lighting up. Shouldn't we rather look at legalising dagga and let those who choose to puff and pass, whether it's recreational or medical, do so in peace?

Lindiwe Mlandu is a member of the Eyewitness News team in Cape Town. Follow her on Twitter: @LindiweMl