Pubdate: Tue, 08 Dec 2015
Source: Times, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2015 AVUSA, Inc.
Author: Philani Nombembe


Legalisation of Dagga Claimed to Be the Economic Boost South Africa 
Sorely Needs

THE flagging economy would get a multibillion-rand boost if dagga use 
were legalised, say proponents of such a move.

The activists believe that taxing dagga would strengthen the economy 
and attract more tourists.

But what they call "unnecessary legal red tape" is denying the 
country these benefits.

Eighteen activists applied to the Cape Town High Court yesterday to 
have dagga use legalised.

Montagu pig farmer Jeremy Acton, leader of the Dagga Party, is among 
the applicants. He wants sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking 
Act, and of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, declared 

The applicants say that parts of the acts are irrational and 
unlawful, and infringe on their dignity and right to privacy.

Johannesburg couple Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke have made a 
similar application to the Pretoria High Court. It is due to be heard in March.

There was near pandemonium just before yesterday's court hearing in 
Cape Town as dozens of Rastafarians shouted, clapped and jeered. 
Dagga smoking has a religious significance for Rastafarians.

The hearing was moved to another courtroom.

A full bench is hearing the matter. Judge Dennis Davis postponed the 
case to next year with the intention of inviting experts to give evidence.

"We take this matter very seriously," said Davis. "That is why we are 
taking this unusual step [of postponing].

"This could go to the Constitutional Court and the Constitutional 
Court will not be pleased with us if we don't take expert evidence."

The application is being opposed by the national director of public 
prosecutions, the health minister and the police minister.

They claim that the "restrictions" on dagga use do not infringe 
constitutional rights and that the state is "obliged to fulfil its 
international obligations in the war against drugs".

Attorney and dagga activist Garreth Prince, who is one of the 
applicants, said that dagga could inject billions of rands into the economy.

"We are talking about something that will immediately be able to 
provide food, clothing, shelter and medicine for our people," said Prince.

"The sales of cigarettes go into billions of rand and we [believe] 
cannabis will be comparable."

Economist Mike Schussler shared Prince's sentiments.

"It would become a cash crop," Schussler said. "It would probably 
encourage a bit of tourism from European countries with restrictive 
dagga laws. We have seen that tax collection in some American states 
has been very positive [since decriminalisation]."

Colorado, in the US, is expected to rake in up to $1-billion next 
year in taxes on the sale of legal dagga, according to the Washington Post.

Acton told The Times that he had been charged several times for 
possession of dagga.

"The future cannabis economy rests on the rights of people to the 
medicine, to the seed, to the nutrition, to the health-giving oil 
that comes from the seed," he said.

"You should be able to make oil for your own skin, creams to deal 
with your own skin cancer.

"We claim rights equal to those of people who use substances that are 
legal, such as tobacco and alcohol, which are more harmful than dagga.

"At the very least we would expect that anyone of about the age of 18 
[would be able to] consume dagga and that there would be regulations 
about where you can buy it and certain hours when you can't buy it."

But African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryll Dudley was not impressed.

"We don't believe that it is in the best interests of our young 
people that dagga should be legalised for recreational purposes," 
said Dudley. "We have enough problems as it is with alcohol and other 
drugs. It is an entry to drug abuse."

Gauteng activist Clarke, who is petitioning the Pretoria High Court, 
flew to Cape Town to support yesterday's court action.

She and Stobbs were in the spotlight in August 2010 when police 
raided their Lanseria plot and arrested them for dealing in drugs.

They received a stay of prosecution pending the finalisation of the 
court hearings and are using crowd funding to help them pay for the 
litigation. They are aiming to raise R1.1-million.

"Tobacco kills 40 000 people in South Africa and nobody has ever died 
from cannabis anywhere in the world," said Clarke.

"You cannot die from it, so why can we not have it? Tobacco is legal 
and cannabis is illegal, so it makes sense that this amazing plant 
that can help our economy be made legal."

Clarke said they intended bringing 28 witness from all over the world 
to testify in their case.

"We have always stressed the importance [of] expert witnesses because 
this is a very serious matter," said Clarke.

In his affidavit filed in June 2013, Prince asked the court to 
instruct the NPA to "stay all pending criminal proceedings relating 
to the possession and cultivation, transportation and distribution of 
small amounts of cannabis for personal or communal usage" pending the 
ruling on the constitutionality of the legislation.
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