Radical changes to dagga prohibition in SA

On 31 March 2017, the Western Cape High Court ruled in the favour of halting the prohibition of Cannabis, more commonly known as dagga.

The ruling allows the court 24 months for the relevant laws to be changed in sections of the Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act. This will legalise the possession, growth, and use of dagga by adults while in their private homes.

The argument was led by the idea that the prohibition of dagga is discriminatory and obsolete. These are beliefs shared by the ‘Dagga Couple’, Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clark, who have been petitioning for the laws to be changed since 2010.

According to their website, the prohibition of dagga is based on racist colonial laws dictated by propaganda in the USA. News24 reported that the early prohibition of dagga was done in order to stop it causing laziness and a lack of productivity in workers.

The Dagga Couple also believe that the punishment of dagga possession is unfair; which they identify as a victimless and personal choice that “should not be seen as a crime at all”. There is also the belief that the prohibition of dagga has resulted in dangerous trade on the black market and furthered its role in organised crime.

According to Dr Lize Weich, senior psychiatrist and lecturer at Stellenbosch, “Cannabis is viewed as an innocent herb by many.” This is an idea reiterated by the Dagga Couple who identify dagga as a “benign, useful, non-toxic, non-lethal plant”.

According to Professor Daya, the Dean of Pharmacy at UCKAR, “The public are fooled with the fallacy that everything natural is safe”. Although Daya acknowledges the “clearly identifiable legitimate medical uses”, including its role in pain reduction, suppression of nausea and inducing one’s appetite, there remain acute and long-term dangers when using dagga.

The court’s ruling will allow for the private use of dagga and many individuals have celebrated this prospect as, according to Dagga Party leader, Jeremy Acton, “It’s about privacy in your own home, it’s not about on the streets.” The Daily Maverick reported another aim being to allow the police to focus their attention on hard crime instead of domestic dagga use. With a court judgement on its side, the free use of dagga at home is a concrete fixture in South Africa’s future.

 

Words by Holly Allison