Pubdate: Tue, 08 Dec 2015
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2015 Cape Times
Author: Michael Nkalane


AN APPLICATION to legalise dagga was postponed in the Western Cape 
High Court yesterday to allow medical and legal experts to testify 
about the pros and cons of the issue.

Judge Dennis Davis said the social consequences of legalising dagga 
needed to be argued in court. The matter could be settled after 
expert opinions had been gathered.

In the run-up to the next appearance, Judge Davis said he would "meet 
various institutions for expert opinions for admissible evidence. 
There is medicinal use and drug culture to consider here".

The application was brought by Garreth Prince, who has a legal 
qualification but is not an admitted attorney. Since Prince also has 
previous dagga-related convictions, his criminal record prevented him 
from adding his name to the roll of admitted attorneys from the Cape 
Law Society in 2002.

The State is opposing the application, saying there is no supporting 
expert evidence on why dagga should be decriminalised.

Prince wants sections of the Drugs, Medicines and Related Substances 
Act and the Criminal Procedure Act to be declared invalid so that 
dagga can be used for religious purposes.

The ministers of Justice and Constitutional Development, Health, 
Police, Trade and Industry and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions 
are respondents in the matter.

The court was packed with Rastafarians yesterday. At times Judge 
Davis interrupted Prince.

"Do not risk your case by pushing for a legalisation of dagga without 
supporting evidence," he warned. "You are asking for this court to 
have certain sections of legislation declared invalid for 
decriminalisation of dagga. We need to get admissible evidence."

Prince said: "We want justice. We have waited for years to have dagga 
decriminalised. The courts are very antagonistic when it comes to the 
legalisation of cannabis..."

Judge Davis brought the State counsel in for his opinion. The counsel 
agreed there was no supporting expert evidence.

Judge Davis asked Prince: "What harm would it do to wait another 
three to four months? I have no supporting evidence before me. We 
have to consider social consequences."

Prince based his argument on the Medicines and Related Substances Act 
and Section 40 of Act no 51 of 1977 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Speaking after the case had been postponed, Prince said: "It would be 
wise for us to exercise caution. He felt we do not have expert 
evidence and we argue from the experience of dagga use as Rastafarians."

Jeremy Acton, leader of the now defunct Dagga Party, said he 
acknowledged the judge's concerns. However, he said: "Criminalisation 
of dagga is overstepping the Constitution. I object to its 
criminalisation. The police must stop checking how much dagga is planted where."
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