Dagga judgment is quite ‘rad’
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.”