‘Canabri­ties’ pair con­tinue their weed war

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - GOITSEMANG TLHABYE

THEY have been called “canabri­ties” look­ing to get fa­mous and a bunch of drug ad­dicts try­ing to get off their drug charges, but Myr­tle Clarke and part­ner Ju­lian Sto­bbs are de­ter­mined to keep fight­ing for the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dagga.

The “dagga cou­ple” as they have been nick­named, ap­peared briefly in the high court in Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day to kick­start their 19-day trial call­ing for the le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis.

The cou­ple, through their or­gan­i­sa­tion Field of Green For All, were ex­pected to bring nine ex­perts to tes­tify on top­ics con­cern­ing cannabis us­age, its heal­ing pow­ers, cul­tural, his­tor­i­cal, eco­nomic and tra­di­tional as­pects.

But the mat­ter was post­poned as there was a dis­pute on court pro­ceed­ings be­ing streamed live.

Clarke said they had put in an ap­pli­ca­tion six weeks prior to the trial for the broad­cast­ing of pro­ceed­ings but had had to make a num­ber of con­ces­sions, one be­ing that no evening high­lights would be made, but she said the live stream or­der was granted on Fri­day.

Yes­ter­day, how­ever, de­spite the green light for the stream go­ing ahead, the de­fence re­quested Judge Nat­var­lal Ran­chod to pro­vide rea­sons in writ­ing be­fore the mat­ter could pro­ceed.

“The judge had to go back and write his rea­sons for grant­ing the live stream and that was only af­ter 12. So it was de­cided that the mat­ter be post­poned to al­low for a full day,” she said.

As they pre­pared to start the trial inside, mem­bers of Um­phakathi Okhat­hazek­ile (Con­cerned Young Peo­ple of South Africa) protested out­side, hold­ing up plac­ards that read “Say no to dagga” and “dagga kills”.

They had come from dif­fer­ent prov­inces and handed out pam­phlets which called on cit­i­zens to say no to the le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis as they be­lieved it was a de­stroyer of lives.

But Clarke said they were not dis­heart­ened by the crowds gath­ered out­side.

“We don’t take it per­son­ally. If any­thing, we would be wor­ried if they weren’t demon­strat­ing. This is the hall­mark of a func­tion­ing demo­cratic process.”

Un­like Gareth Prince’s foiled chal­lenge in 2002 in the West­ern Cape High Court, Clarke said they had re­ceived im­mense sup­port from the cannabis com­mu­nity.

Prince sought ex­emp­tion from the law based on his Rasta­far­ian re­li­gion.

“We never started on this seven-year jour­ney look­ing to be fa­mous. We un­der­stand that it comes with the ter­ri­tory of be­ing in the me­dia spot­light,” said Clarke.

The cou­ple were thrust into the steer­ing chair for the le­gal­i­sa­tion of weed af­ter they were ar­rested for be­ing in pos­ses­sion of more than 115g of dagga when the SAPS raided their home in Au­gust 2010.

The po­lice were al­legedly act­ing on a tip-off of a “drug lab” be­ing on the cou­ple’s prop­erty.

West­ern Cape High Court Judge Den­nis Davis ear­lier this year de­clared that leg­is­la­tion ban­ning the use of the plant by adults in the pri­vacy of their own homes was in­valid.

He sub­se­quently gave Par­lia­ment 24 months to change the laws which he re­garded as in­con­sis­tent with the con­sti­tu­tional right to pri­vacy.

The mat­ter is set to con­tinue to­day.

PIC­TURES: BONGANI SHILUBANE

LEAF IT ALONE: Peo­ple protest out­side the high court in Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day against the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dagga.

SMOKE FOLKS: Myr­tle Clark and Ju­lian Sto­bbs out­side court.

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