Dagga cou­ple fight on to le­galise herb

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ZELDA VEN­TER

LE­GALISE it. This will be theme for the next month in the high court in Pre­to­ria when the pun­gent-smelling green plant known as dagga or cannabis will again come un­der the spot­light.

Judge Nat­var­lal Ran­chod will hear the ev­i­dence of a host of ex­perts called in by the so-called “dagga cou­ple”, Myr­tle Clarke and her part­ner Ju­lian Sto­bbs.

They are, through the or­gan­i­sa­tion Field of Green for All, call­ing for leg­is­la­tion ban­ning the use of cannabis in all forms to go up in smoke.

Judge Den­nis Davis is­sued a judg­ment ear­lier this year in the West­ern Cape High Court in which he de­clared as in­valid leg­is­la­tion ban­ning the use of this plant by adults in the pri­vacy of their own homes.

He gave Par­lia­ment 24 months in which to change laws that were in­con­sis­tent with the con­sti­tu­tional right to pri­vacy.

But the dagga cou­ple’s le­gal bid, which starts to­day, goes much fur­ther. Clarke said Judge Davis’s judg­ment ticked the first box, but the fight to le­galise cannabis had just be­gun.

Trad­ing in cannabis will be one of the as­pects the cou­ple will fight for. Clarke said it does not make sense to be able to use it when you can­not sell or grow it.

“To have it, you must grow or buy it.”

They will call nine ex­perts to tes­tify on a range of top­ics con­cern­ing cannabis. The top­ics to be cov­ered over the next 19 days will range from the heal­ing pow­ers of cannabis to its cul­tural, his­tor­i­cal, eco­nomic and tra­di­tional as­pects.

“We are ready for this bat­tle. We have in fact been ready for a long time, and we are con­fi­dent that we have a good case. We have all our bases cov­ered,” Clarke said.

The gov­ern­ment, how­ever, is set on op­pos­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion and is ex­pected to call its own wit­nesses to counter the cou­ple’s ar­gu­ments.

The cou­ple’s le­gal bid has been on the cards for about six years – since they were ar­rested on cannabis-re­lated charges. Their crim­i­nal trial was put on hold pend­ing the out­come of this le­gal chal­lenge.

They said that they have been us­ing the plant for decades, and that as up­stand­ing and tax-pay­ing cit­i­zens, it was their right to do so.

By com­par­ing leg­isla­tive de­vel­op­ments, the pro­hi­bi­tion of cannabis could no longer be jus­ti­fied in South Africa, they ar­gued.

The aim of their le­gal chal­lenge was to ed­u­cate the pub­lic and the au­thor­i­ties about the use of cannabis, to prove that it was not harm­ful, they said. In can­cer pa­tients, dagga is said to re­duce pain.

The State is ex­pected to set out the “harm­ful and ad­dic­tive” as­pects of this green leaf.

Make no sense to use it if you can’t sell or grow it

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