Pubdate: Tue, 10 Mar 2015
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily News.
Author: Sherlissa Peters


THE battle to legalise the use of dagga could reach the 
Constitutional Court if a Howick farmer has his way.

John Lawrence Strydom, 44, yesterday launched a Pietermaritzburg High 
Court application against the minister of justice and the office of 
the director of public prosecutions.

Strydom wants criminal proceedings against him for the possession and 
cultivation of dagga to be stayed.

This was in order for him to approach the Constitutional Court to 
have certain parts of the Illicit Drugs and Trafficking Act of 1992 
and the Medicines and Related Substances Controlled Act of 1965, 
relating to the use, possession of and dealing in dagga, declared to 
be in violation of the Bill of Rights.

He was arrested on November 12 for the possession of almost 5kg of 
dagga on Freelands Farm, Lions River.

Police said they also seized equipment used to grow the plants.

However, Acting Judge Piet Bezuidenhout informed Strydom that the 
charges against him had been provisionally withdrawn, which rendered 
his application moot.

But Strydom, representing himself in the criminal and civil 
proceedings, believes the charges could be reinstated at any time and 
insisted the application be heard.

The case was then adjourned for a date to be arranged.

In an affidavit to the court, Strydom said the word dagga (from the 
Khoi word dacha) has been used by the police and media in South 
Africa to stigmatise the plant and the people who use it.

Rightful place

He said he wished to de-stigmatise the use of the word and ultimately 
give the dagga plant "its rightful place in society, for the benefit 
of the citizens of South Africa".

He admitted that he has been using dagga for 28 years without harm.

"I smoke it and eat it for its known medical benefits and as a part 
of my own spiritual beliefs and practices.

"I regularly consume it as part of my daily diet and as a health 
supplement," he said.

Strydom said he also made medicine from the plant extract for his own 
health issues, and when necessary, he "shares freely with various 
terminally ill people who rely on dagga medication to survive or have 
some quality of life".

He said personal research into the medical benefits and economic 
potential of dagga had led him to seek a scientific justification for 
the law as it stands, which Strydom considers to be a violation of 
his constitutional rights.

"The law against dagga and the persecution of members of the dagga 
culture violates the Bill of Rights," he said.

Strydom said he also wanted to defend his right to use dagga for his 
own benefit.

"I am dedicated to building a culture and spirituality centred upon 
the dagga tree as a direct personal access to communion with the Creator."

Strydom confirmed that he is a member of Iqela Lentsango, the Dagga 
Party of South Africa, and reiterated that dagga seeds were not 
narcotic, but instead contained up to 24 percent protein with all the 
amino acids necessary for human nutrition.

"Dagga is only prohibited because it cannot be patented and because 
it is estimated that pharmaceutical corporations would lose millions 
in revenue if the public insisted on their rights to access cannabis 
for purposes of self-medication," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom