• Kevin Nafte

Cannabis & My South African Roots

In 1975, my uncle wrote a paper during his 3rd year of his medical degree at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. The paper was titled, "The Biological Effects of Cannabis Sativa" and was the first "medical paper" I had ever read about cannabis. I was 19 when I first read the paper and was absolutely amazed to learn that cannabis had medical properties especially considering the anti cannabis education I received at school and at home.


A year or two later, I met up with my uncle and a good friend of his who happened to be a leading Australian cardiologist at the time. We consumed some cannabis together, spoke about family, life, philosophy and the incredible medicinal and spiritual benefits that cannabis possesses. This was a pivotal moment in my life, which planted the seed which would slowly grow into the foundations of YVY. I have pasted below the original paper from 1975.


In the 18th century the great Swedish father of botanical classification, Carl Von Linne,

proposed the genus and species name of Cannabis Sativa L. (Cannabis is the Latin for

Hemp, the plant from which it is obtained; sativa since the plant grows from a seed.)


The plant grows in the overwhelming majority of countries in the world. It is a

herbaceous annual which thrives on soil instability and is propagated by the breeze. In

hot, dry areas the resin is copious, heavy and sticky, giving it a greater intoxication

potential. This might account for a variety grown in Durban, South Africa called,

“Durban Poison”, being amongst the most potent varieties in the world.


The resinous exudates of the flowering tops contain most of the active agents called Tetrahydra Cannabinols (THC). Different grades are determined in part by the degree of resin in the flowering tops, making the female plant extract more potent.


Common local names currently in use include Dagga (derived from Hottentots language), grass and wheat. Dope, pot, punch magazines etc. in America other names include Marijuana and Mary Jane. Hashish is the name given to the pure resin.


Much controversy surrounds the subject of Dagga. This is largely due to the prejudice,

lack of objectivity and narrow mindedness of many writers. It is also due to the lack of

definite knowledge about Dagga. One author suggests that only through this

disagreement and discord can one, “encounter the reality of Dagga.” Getting high on

Dagga is probably a better way of encountering this reality.


“Out of Your Head”

Out’ta your head means high, stoned, smashed, goofed or simply out’ta your head. How

does one get high on dagga?


Smoking dagga is the easiest and most popular way of getting goofed. You can smoke a

joint, a bottleneck, a pipe or water pipe, which cools the smoke and removes some of the irritants. The effects occur within minutes and last for a few hours.


When eating “grass cookies” or cakes, the effects only occur after about an hour but last

very much longer.


It is not known whether sniffing the last part of the joint i.e. the “Roche” has any effect.

Some smokers believe that the Roche has extra potent properties.


Smoking Dagga is usually a group activity. One author has suggested that passing a joint

or pipe around has a ritualistic character – completing the circle of brotherhood. BULL! This is a simple way of ensuring that no one “Bogart’s” the joint. I.e. “hogs,

frarts, keeps it too long.”

“Don’t Bogart that joint my friend, pass it over to me.”


Within minutes of first smelling that sweet and distinctive smell of grass, you begin to

feel “out’ta your head”.


When someone who is stoned is confronted with the question, “What is it like to be

high?” He will probably just stare for a few minutes, completely bewildered, and then

finally give a vague reply such as, “well…its like being…ummhh…out’ta your head.”


A description of the high as a standardized uniform phenomenon is both impossible and misleading. The subjective effects of the drug are dependent on both dose and route of administration. The individual personality, the company in which the drug is used, previous experiences with and expectations about, the prior events of the day – can all result in a new experience. There is no specific pattern of behavior since Dagga has both excitatory and depressant activity.


It is thus important to bear in mind the preceding paragraph when reading, “The Dagga

Trip”.


“The Dagga Trip” – Anonymous


Dreamy and floating…I dreamed I floated down the river Nile.

I’d look at something and find myself looking at it for an overly long period of time.

“A dreamy state of altered consciousness”. Ideas come in disrupted sequences- ideas

seem disconnected – uncontrollable and freely flowing.

Behavior is impulsive and random ideas are quickly translated into speech.


On the Other Hand


You can think about doing something for hours but never get round to it.


Uncontrollable laughter and hilarity at minimal stimuli are common. Possibly this will be

followed on later (or followed later on) (or later on followed) – “This started off as a

good idea but now it’s getting silly.”


As I was saying, this can be followed by a quiet and thoughtful mood in which you can

get lost for hours.


I get very, very, very, thirsty when I’m high – my lips stick to the inside of my gums and

it feels totally dry.


Music begins to sound incredibly good. You can listen and pick up each different sound

and then just be amazed by the way they put things together.


Even if you listen to yourself play something, you sound a thousand times better.


You’ll do almost anything to rationalize something that gets in the way of your

enjoyment. SHOO!


Sometimes it’s like listening to a tape recording of your own voice at the same time that

you’re speaking.


“We sped up Dave’s drive. Suddenly he slammed on anchors and the car screeched as it

jolted to an unexpected stop. I flew forward, then slowly raised my head to see this big

red sign in front of me, “These premises are protected by AKA Burglar Alarms”/


At this stage I’d like to lodge a complaint

STAGE INSERTION: ..........................TRUMPETS


Your thoughts go much faster than the time it takes to write them out. I keep getting lost

in the middle of these enormous sentences.


Often insights under the influence are accompanied by an emotion which reinforces the

conviction that a fragment of truth has been discovered. This is called a revelation.


Someone once said, “My mind plods when I’m straight – it leaps and bounds when I smoke. Both roads get to Scotland but I prefer the high road”.


“But beware”, say the Rowell Brothers, “Whatever it tells you while you are under its

spell, is a lie – an artful deception.”


Psycho-analyst Dr. Sheldon Cholst describes his experiences. “It makes you a child again. You move easily in thoughts and fantasies – one to another like a child. One’s mind is free to wonder, think, and all the restlessness is taken care of in the mind... dreaming, relaxing, and lolling in the delirious state of nothingness… Ideas fly through the mind uncontrollably… flashing like bolts of lightening often illuminating but hard to pin down. This leads to difficulty in communicating which results in a sort of irrelevant and irresistible hilarity. It is not uncommon to stop talking in the middle of a sentence and to ask your friends what you were talking about and no-one remembers.


Situations requiring little or no physical effort are best suited to the cannabis trip – music, sitting around etc. (Climbing out the back of a 2 door sports type car is definitely not included in this group.)


A chess game can go on for hours – when you’re smashed, you can contemplate a

particular move for an interminable time. If your opponent is also stoned, he rarely

minds.A smoker does not like to be stoned in the company of “straights” (self-explanatory)


Have you ever got high and then had to face your family? You feel like they’re sitting

there watching you and they know that you’re stoned.


Beginners complain that nothing is really happening. They wait impatiently and when the drug fails to function in the way they think it should, they pretend – acting out what they think the drug should do. They must realize that that no miracles will be produced by it. It produces only an exaggeration of the natural. The drug affects the brain and it is the brain of the user which will determine the effects to be experienced.


According to the French poet, Baudelaire; “A man will never escape from his destined physical and moral temperament. Hashish will be a mirror of his impressions and private thoughts. – A magnifying mirror.”


When one uses cannabis, one must protect himself from noxious influences because the drug not only exaggerates the user’s personality; it also distorts the circumstances and surroundings. One must not burden himself with appointments, he must have no domestic worries and he must be free of unhappy love affairs if he hopes to have a good trip.


Therefore, although cannabis promotes a feeling of self confidence due to reduced

inhibitions, this can be replaced by feelings of anxiety and paranoia as the result of some negative factors. This is called a “Bummer”.


Many writers say that Dagga’s arousal of the imaginative function, its distortion of time

and space perception and its lowering of the sensory threshold may be accompanied “not infrequently” by hallucination.


Dagga does NOT characteristically produce hallucinations i.e. sensations or perceptions

with no objective course or correlative. What might happen (and this is only in some

people for short periods) is that the mind with the help of the drugs RE-ARRANGES

one’s perception of material surroundings rather than creating a wholly new image.

The cannabis trip usually lasts 3 to 6 hours. By 12 hours all symptoms but a slight

lethargy and hunger are gone. Whatever you were before you smoked, whatever you had in mind as a goal to reach while you were smoked up (that means being under the

influence), is increased and enhanced by the use of the drug.


Immediate Psychological Changes


Pulse rate increases and there is a slight rise in blood pressure and heart rate. The

metabolic rate increases with a resulting desire to urinate. Blood sugar levels fall causing

hunger. There is dryness of the mouth and throat. The pupils dilate and the ciliary’s vessels of the eye become congested. The smoker acquires a new subtlety or acuity of

smell, sight, hearing and touch.


Dagga and Sex


Grass stimulates the desire for sex. But unlike alcohol which “provokes the desire, but

takes away the performance”, grass heightens sexual pleasure. “I first get tingly in the

sensuous spots. It sort of slides down.” This conflicts with the study of M.E. Corcoran et

al which shows a reduction in the copulatory behavior of male rats following hashish

injections. But considering the dosage given, it is lucky that the rats could stand, never

mind anything else.


Dagga and Male Potency


Tests carried out by Kolodny et al showed that with chronic intensive marijuana use:

  1. Mean plasma testosterone levels were significantly lower. This might account for the diminished drive, lessened ambition, decreased motivation and apathy among chronic smokers.

  2. Lowered testosterone levels were dose related

  3. With abstention, there was a marked increase in testosterone levels.

  4. Liver function was normal. This was assessed by measuring levels of circulatory gonadotrophins, Prolactin, Cortisol and Thyroxin.

Male smokers thus need not fear developing gynecomastia. Dagga probably reduces testosterone levels by a central suppressive action on the hypothalamus or pituitary with a secondary reduction in the testicular output of androgen.


Dagga and the Heart


Unlike Mole et al who concluded that cannabis has a pronounced and deleterious

effect on the heart, P. Beaconsfield M.D PhD and editor of the American Heart

Journal found that cannabis has no direct effect on the myocardium, although

slight circulatory adjustments are produced.


All the changes found in the ECG tracings could be the result of alterations in

blood flow to the myocardium.


A study of the direct effect of THC in a guinea pig heart-lung preparation showed

no change in cardiac function with normal doses. Only when the dose was

increased 50-fold, was there any sign of cardiac insufficiency.


Beaconfield’s conclusion: “Whatever the nature of the toxic effect on the myocardium is, it is effectively and rapidly dealt with by the general metabolism in the intact animal.”


Vestibular and Auditory Effects of Cannabis


Martin Spector M.D. noted no auditory differences but found significant

vestibular changes.


Effect of THC on Mitochondria


The high lipid solubility of THC suggests that it interacts with lipoprotein fractions. If THC affects all mitochondria, one would expect changes in sperm mitochondria.

A. Shahor and T. Bino thus tested the vitro effects of ∆ 9 THC on bull sperm and

found it caused:

i. damage to mitochondrial helix

ii. decreased respiration and reduced ATP content

iii. changes in sperm motility


Effects of ∆ 9 THC on the Liver


In rats, the liver is the major site of accumulation of THC and its metabolites. The

THC molecule is lipophilic and has an affinity for biological membranes. It

stabilizes erythrocyte membranes but disrupts mitochondrial membranes.


R.S. Britton and A. Mellors found that THC causes solubilization of particulate

acid phosphates (dose related). This would produce hepatoxicity and cirrhosis in

heavy users.


Since very large concentrations of THC were used in this test, the results should

be viewed with caution.


Effects on the CNS


Dagga has been classed as a “Head Drug”. Its effects on the chemical processes of

the body are small when compared to its significant impact on perceptions, mental

processes and psychic states.


If we think of the brain as a computer, then perhaps grass by temporarily altering

the chemistry of the brain, stimulates new connections, linking up memories and

information in unusual ways.


A possible theory to explain the central effects of cannabis was suggested by

Beng T. Ho et al. they found that chronic treatment with ∆ 9 THC causes a decrease

in metabolism of 5 – Hydroxyl Tryptamine (Serotonin) and an increase in that of

Norepinephrin (NE). It is possible that the psychoactive properties of ∆ 9 THC are the result of the opposing change in the turnover of the two brain amines.


Chronic Use


Evidence suggests that the effects of dagga are cumulative and dose related. Many

writers warn that a stage may be reached when irreversible disorientation and

dissociation will take over.


Chronic users of dagga are classically described. “They are lethargic, they neglect their personal appearance and hygiene; they are indolent and non-productive. They usually have serious underlying personality problems and severe neurotic conflicts.”


Also reported, “gross panic and fear, depersonalization, gross confusion and disorientation, acute depression, paranoid phenomena and schizophrenic behavior.”


Recently Colonel Audrey Levin, Chief Psychiatrist of the South African Defense

Force, demonstrated a positive correlation between heavy cannabis dependence

and certain organic cerebral syndromes, more particularly disorders of motivation,

concentration and memory. He admitted the following limitations:-

  1. At least 30% of the people used in the test used other drugs besides dagga.

  2. Majority of those interviewed left school at standard 8. This is not a true characteristic sample of the population of dagga smokers.

  3. Levin had no specialized neurological apparatus to confirm brain damage.

I.e. the entire test depends on subjective assessments. Nevertheless, in true South African style, this did not deter Colonel Levin from reaching the irrefutable conclusion that chronic dagga causes irreversible brain damage.


Cannabis and Criminal Behaviour


There is a growing agreement within the medical community that dagga does not promote criminal behaviour or juvenile delinquency.


In 1960, the Egyptian government made cannabis illegal on the grounds that it is capable of profoundly disturbing brain cells, inducing acts of violence even murder. They were probably thinking of Hasan Ibn Sabbah’s assassins whose courage was fortified with hashish.


But cannabis, in view of its effect of lowering testosterone levels is more likely to cause

passiveness than aggression.



Cannabis and Car Driving


Some people advise against driving under the influence

  1. since you become obsessed and engrossed with lights, colours and sounds, and

  2. your psychomotor function is disturbed.

It can be argued however, that when driving stoned, you have increased concentration

and awareness.


Addiction


Cannabis does not have a physiological dependence. It has no pharmacologically

addicting properties and is probably less dependence producing than coffee.


Some people talk about a physic or psychological dependence on dagga. This is very

vague. There is definitely no withdrawal symptoms or craving.


Tolerance and Sensitivity


Again there is much controversy but a recent experiment conducted by M.P. Rayes M.D

et al, shows that the amount of dagga used to obtain a social high, does not produce

tolerance or sensitivity to its effects.


Cannabis and Stronger Drugs


E.A Rowell, formerly of the World Narcotics Research Foundation, called marijuana the

“missing link”. “Tobacco to marijuana, marijuana to snow, snow to the needle”.

A causal relationship, however, between cannabis and stronger drugs has never been

substantiated. In fact most smokers view heroine, LSD etc with fear and disdain.


Cannabis and Pregnancy


No reliable evidence exists that cannabis causes genetic defects in man or that it affects

human fetal development. But ∆ 9 THC crosses the placental barrier and in view of its

effect of lowering testosterone levels, it might cause harm during the critical stages of

sexual differentiation.


Possible Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis Sativa for the Future

1. Use as an analgesic

Hill et al found that cannabis affected thresholds by increasing the sensitivity to

both painful and non-painful stimulation and by reducing tolerance to pain,

casting doubt on the usefulness of dagga as an analgesic drug. Most smokers

however, have found dagga to relieve tension headaches and to soothe pain and

restlessness.

2. Anti-Convulsant

Karler et al and Turkanis both found the cannabinols to have anti-convulsant

activity. A limitation for the clinical usefulness is their potential for CNS toxicity.

But CBD – Cannabidiol – a naturally occurring cannabinoid has no psychic

activity and therefore, has clinical potential as an anti-epileptic drug.

3. Treatment of Asthma

Tashkin et al found that in asthmatic subjects, both smoked marijuana and oral

THC caused significant bronchi dilation of at least 2 hours duration and a

resultant significant increase in specific airways conduction. As opposed to the

classical belief that dagga causes airways obstruction and chronic bronchitis. The

bronchi dilator effect is probably a direct effect on smooth muscle and not a

central effect.

Limitation: only acute effects were studied. There is a possibility of aggravation

of existing bronchial pathology

4. Treatment of Cancer and use as an Immunosuppressant

Louis S. Harris PhD and his colleagues at the medical school of Virginia reported

that

  1. THC markedly depressed DNA synthesis in 2 malignant tumors in mice, decreased tumors mass and prolonged mice survival.

  2. The psychoactive agent also delays rejection of skin allograft in mice.

This is consistent with the findings of Nahas et al that cannabis depresses the

lymphocyte transformation and has an inhibitory effect on the PHA

(Phytohaemagglutinin) – induced blast genesis of normal human lymphocytes.


It is suggested that since we cannot tell in what form dagga enters the body and the brain and in what manner it affects the brain cells, it is better left untouched and unsmoked. But extensive studies of cannabis have been carried out and there is nothing to suggest harmful effects with casual use. So while I advise against smoking during pregnancy and against chronic smoking (a number of joints every day), I feel that smoking once or twice a week is not at all harmful and is probably beneficial.


In advising that causal dagga smoking is beneficial, I’m not trying to turn anyone on (i.e.

persuade then to smoke grass) I am merely reassuring those that already smoke.


So listen well all you “daggarokers” to my reasons.

  1. Dagga smoking is not addictive and if the necessity arises it can be given up with no withdrawal symptoms.

  2. All experiments and tests which conclude that dagga is harmful, have used concentrations of dagga far in excess of that needed to produce the social high.

  3. The basic personality of the user is not altered. His behavioral reactions do however change (for the better I believe) due to reduced inhibitions and feelings of self-confidence.

  4. It gives one the opportunity to slow down during life’s rapid race and to contemplate life, people, events etc. it is thus a means of development of one’s mind and character – thus serving a similar purpose to books and music.

  5. Dagga enhances appreciation of music and the arts.

  6. Dagga stimulates individuality. It allows one to watch from the outside, a world filled with excessive conservatism, gross corruption and little tolerance. Grass stimulates free thought and living – in a world with increasing anti-individual, anti-human and anti-life trends. “It riles them to believe that you perceive the web they weave.”

Recently, the Rand Daily Mail reported that if the dagga plant was used to produce

paper, the world paper shortage could be solved. However during manufacturing the

active agents would not be removed.


At this stage I suggest crushing up my essay, making yourself a joint and SEE YOU

ON THE GOOD SHIP LOLLYPOP.

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