Trial of the Plant – Day 07 – Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol

Day 7 of the Trial of the Plant got entangled in the comparative harms of alcohol vs cannabis, with the state troopers not liking that at all. While Professor Nutt was interrogated about the harms of cannabis, repeatedly having to state that yes, there are harms to cannabis use, BUT, in relation to other legal drugs, it is a much safer and more rational choice.

The state’s interpretation was that the side effects of cannabis cause an ailment, like psychosis, but Prof Nutt was quick to state that a psychosis derived from cannabis consumption is merely a symptom of use and that an ailment is an enduring condition. The court is not an arena to get the definition of words wrong, especially when dealing with scientists. Lots of Prof Nutt’s research helped him (and many other scientists) determine that it is irrational to prohibit the use of cannabis when the comparative harms of cannabis are the real issue.

State: “You expect SA to accept your propositions? “

Nutt: “I hope South Africa is more rational than Britain”


The state asked Nutt if the issue of comparison of harms does not arise through cannabis vs alcohol as a comparative example and has not been raised by the plaintiffs in their heads of argument to which Prof Nutt replied “It is only rational that if you had to make one drug illegal and another not that there needs to be a comparative study on harms.”

“If prohibition is based on evidence,

it must take into account the evidence in the way I presented it.” Prof Nutt

The State raised the point again that alcohol should not feature in the court as it’s not the substance in dispute and that the case of the comparative harms of cannabis and alcohol is not relative to the Trial of the Plant.

“Prof nutt: If you really care about harms in your country you would not focus on the harms of cannabis, you would focus on the harms of alcohol, but countries don’t do that, countries do not focus on the harms of alcohol because the alcohol industry is so powerful and so effective in controlling political discourse that politicians will not challenge it. You still have alcohol advertising here even though some countries have gotten rid of it. The argument that you are trying to protect the public by keeping cannabis illegal is undermined by the fact that you, and all of the other people who are trying to argue that cannabis should stay illegal are not trying to change alcohol. If you really cared about harm you would change alcohol.”


The state does not want to allow the discussion to continue on the harms of cannabis, particularly in relation to alcohol and feel that it’s not for the court to decide on such a comparison. Nutt believes that’s it is only the last 10 years that politics got in the way of science and that it is a very sad state of affairs that politics is the over riding rule. He goes on to say: “Politicians have other motives other than the best for their people”, but the State felt otherwise: “In South Africa, the courts do not make policy for government, policy is the terrain of the government.”.

Watch the last 22min of the day that had technical problems streaming

After trying to determine what nyope is between the witness and the state, they suggested that Prof Nutt should get invited to a township, where he can learn better about nyope. The State feels that SA is a very different country to UK, even though genetically there’s very little evidence to suggest otherwise.

State: “What regulating framework do you propose?

Nutt: “Each country should decide itself, how best to regulate a drug.”

State said it would have been helpful if he prepared for his testimony, and that his evidence does not suggest how to regulate cannabis. Nutt circled back to his point that he “believes that it is morally very contentious for any state to control a drug that is less harmful than another drug it promotes, in this case, alcohol.

“It’s wrong to prohibit something that is less harmful, which the state actually makes income from.” Nutt

One of the ways you can reduce alcohol consumption is to allow people access to a safer alternative, like cannabis. So I think legalizing cannabis would have a significant impact to reduce some of the harms of alcohol too. Prof Nutt elaborated: “By prohibiting the use of cannabis, you are in effect telling people they must use alcohol which is a more harmful drug to the user.” Prof Nutt feels that pushing people into a direction where they use a substance less harmful, is where he stands.

Nutt: “Your state encourages the sale of alcohol.”

State: “Are you saying cannabis should be legalized? “

Nutt: “Yes, cannabis should be available to adults, because it’s less harmful than state encouraged drugs.

Nutt: “Legalizing cannabis will have a significant impact in reducing the harms of alcohol.“

Cannabis does not meet that threshold of harm to say it should be banned, even if it is compared to alcohol. A regulated market doesn’t accommodate the need to try to create a demand to change the pharmacology and inventing new substances.

Click here to watch the last 2 minutes of day 07 when the state took ‘treatment’ words right out of Prof Nutt’s mouth, and changed it to ‘cured’, thus changing the orientation of the discussion. Unfortunately, the stream went down right after this, to which court also got adjourned till Thursday 09:30AM

Here’s today’s video archive

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