Concourt hears land­mark mar­i­juana case

SOME of the Rasta­far­i­ans out­side the Lesotho Palace of Jus­tice to sup­port Rasta­far­ian Mot­seki Let­sota (left).

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Tefo Tefo

THE Chief Jus­tice, Nthomeng Ma­jara and two other judges sit­ting as the Con­sti­tu­tional Court have given the gov­ern­ment un­til 20 March 2018 to file its an­swer­ing af­fi­davits in a case in which a Rasta­far­ian, Mot­seki Let­sota, wants the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to in­val­i­date laws that pro­hibit him from us­ing cannabis.

Chief Jus­tice Ma­jara and Jus­tices Tšeliso Mon­aphathi and Semapo Peete on Tues­day made the or­der af­ter ex­press­ing their dis­plea­sure at the gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­ued de­lay in fil­ing its an­swer­ing af­fi­davits to de­fend the chal­lenge.

The 29-year-old Let­sota from Khanyane in Leribe, filed the land­mark case on 31 Jan­uary 2018, but the gov­ern­ment has not yet filed its af­fi­davit de­spite fil­ing an in­ten­tion to op­pose the case.

The re­spon­dents are the Min­is­ter of Heath, Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Min­is­ter of Law and Con- sti­tu­tional Af­fairs, Min­is­ter of Po­lice, Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral.

The judges said “the court takes a strong view that the re­spon­dents did not file pa­pers for a long time”.

“The re­spon­dents should file their an­swer­ing af­fi­davits by 20 March and the ap­pli­cant should file his replying af­fi­davit by the 9th of April”.

The lawyers for both sides were also or­dered to ap­pear in court on 30 April 2018 for the court to set a date for hear­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Mr Let­sota al­ter­na­tively wants the court to or­der the Min­istry of Health to grant him an ex­emp­tion to en­able him to use cannabis for re­li­gious pur­poses if the en­tire law against the use of the plant is not de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“I am a mem­ber of Rasta­fari re­li­gion since 2005,” Mr Let­sota states in his af­fi­davit.

“I chose to ad­here to the Rasta­fari faith on my own ac­cord.

“I took and up­hold the vow of the Rasta­fari Or­der and the Nazarene.”

“I abide and live by the Rasta­fari Or­der and I up­hold Rasta­fari lev­ity, cul­ture, re­li­gion, way of life, tra­di­tions, rit­u­als and diet.”

He fur­ther states that he took the re­li­gious vow of a life-time and this in­cludes the use of cannabis for re­li­gious pur­poses.

He how­ever, said the coun­try’s laws crim­i­nalise the use of cannabis and the fail­ure to grant him an ex­emp­tion to use the drug vi­o­lated his con­sti­tu­tional rights.

“I use the cannabis plant for Rasta­fari re­li­gious and spir­i­tual pur­poses only. I use cannabis alone in my own pri­vacy and in a dis­ci­plined man­ner. My use of cannabis does not af­fect any body since it is done in the pri­vate dwelling, within closed rooms and well-ven­ti­lated ar­eas.

“I use cannabis in my en­closed pri­vacy in a way that is not detri­men­tal to pub­lic health and safety, pub­lic moral­ity, state in­ter­ests, my own health and well­be­ing, and not in­fring­ing on other peo­ple’s rights and safety.”

He said he uses less than 50 grammes of cannabis per day for his re­li­gious pur­poses when pray­ing, med­i­tat­ing, as an in­cense or sacra­ment. He said the drug was a “holy herb” and for spir­i­tual heal­ing.

“I ap­plied for an ex­emp­tion (to be al­lowed to use cannabis) in terms of sec­tion 98 of Drug Abuse Act on the 1st of Au­gust 2017 and my ap­pli­ca­tion was de­lib­er­ately, un­justly, un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally and un­rea­son­ably with­held by the Min­istry of Health.

“I be­lieve the ex­emp­tion shall re­solve or rem­edy this sit­u­a­tion where I am trapped in a con­flict of laws and in­ter­ests on whether or not to abide by the law of man or the law of God.

“The crim­i­nal­ity of cannabis even for my pri­vate spir­i­tual and re­li­gious use hin­ders my con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion and en­joy­ment of my civil and po­lit­i­cal, so­cio-eco­nomic, cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal rights,” he said.

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