Dagga judg­ment is quite ‘rad’

CityPress - - News - CHARL DU PLESSIS news@city­press.co.za

In a rare re­ver­sal of roles, the Western Cape High Court de­liv­ered a judg­ment on dagga use this week that saw pot smok­ers do­ing all their home­work, while law en­force­ment al­lowed the grass to grow un­der its feet.

In a 66-page joint judg­ment of a full Bench of the court, penned by Judge Den­nis Davis, it was found that not only was the med­i­cal ev­i­dence pre­sented on be­half of the min­is­ters of jus­tice, police, health and the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity con­tested, but they also “of­fered very lit­tle fur­ther ev­i­dence of per­sua­sion and weight to counter the re­port by Pro­fes­sor [Mark] Shaw”.

The re­port was an ex­pert opin­ion by Shaw of the Cen­tre of Crim­i­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Cape Town. Shaw was asked to pro­vide the re­port be­cause the ap­pli­cants, Gareth Prince and Jonathan Ru­bin, had filed a “con­sid­er­able amount” of doc­u­men­ta­tion that was of “lit­tle as­sis­tance”.

“The ev­i­dence pro­vided by the re­spon­dents, in my view, was sin­gu­larly unim­pres­sive, par­tic­u­larly in that a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time was of­fered to the re­spon­dents in order to re­spond com­pre­hen­sively,” Davis ruled.

The court ba­si­cally took into ac­count a great amount of re­search done on the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of dagga, as well as de­vel­op­ments in other demo­cratic coun­tries, be­fore con­clud­ing that the use of crim­i­nal law to pun­ish those who use a small quan­tity of dagga at home was a vi­o­la­tion of a per­son’s right to pri­vacy.

Quot­ing the Shaw re­port, the court held that the “ef­fects of cannabis are no longer pop­u­larly un­der­stood to re­sult in dan­ger­ous­ness and un­con­trol­lable ‘reefer mad­ness’ and, in fact, many users are of the opin­ion that cannabis is more likely to in­duce pas­siv­ity than en­cour­age any pos­si­ble crim­i­nal be­hav­iour”.

But dagga users would be ad­vised to use some cau­tion be­fore blaz­ing up just yet. The order was sus­pended for a pe­riod of two years so that Par­lia­ment can pass the leg­is­la­tion that will de­crim­i­nalise grow­ing small amounts of dagga for con­sump­tion in peo­ple’s homes.

Two reg­u­lar pot smok­ers City Press spoke to said they would con­tinue us­ing it re­gard­less.

One 31-year-old, who smokes pot daily, said: “It’s progress, it’s rad, but, I mean, it makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence to peo­ple who are al­ready smok­ing it.

“It’s weird, though, you can grow it, but you can’t buy it or trans­port it ... so the seeds just have to mirac­u­lously ap­pear?”

A 28-year-old user agreed: “Well, hon­estly, it doesn’t make a dif­fer­ence to me. I was do­ing it any­way. And I wasn’t go­ing to stop.”

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