Pubdate: Sun, 13 Dec 2015
Source: Times, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2015 AVUSA, Inc.
Authors: Nashira Davids, Aphiwe Deklerk and Tanya Farber


Separate Court Actions Launched to Challenge SA's Ban on Use and 
Possession of the Weed

Because We've Been Given Our Stay of Prosecution, the High Court Can't Say No

THERE'S no time to space out in a daze for South Africa's leading 
pro-dagga activists - they have their hands full trying to get it 
legalised and to block the prosecution of offenders.

Jeremy Acton, leader of the Dagga Party, and "the dagga couple" - 
Myrtle Clarke and Julian Stobbs, of the NGO Fields of Green for All - 
say they are contacted every day by people who have been arrested.

Clarke appointed a team member dedicated to helping people launch 
stay-of-prosecution applications pending the outcome of their bid in 
the High Court in Pretoria to have dagga legalised.

For his part, Acton sends people forms to help them launch 
applications for stays of prosecution, pending the outcome of his 
high court challenge in Cape Town.

Acton and the couple say they have 26 successful stays of prosecution 
under their belts, including their own - the three face charges of 
dagga possession. A further 37 applications are pending.

"We've had a 100% success rate," said Clarke. "Because we've been 
given our stay of prosecution, the high court can't say no. It is 
just lengthy and quite confusing for some people, but we try our best."

Acton and 17 other activists appeared in the High Court in Cape Town 
this week for the start of their potentially preceThe dent-setting case.

They argue that should dagga be legalised, it could be a lifeline for 
the economy. Acton said he was confident. "The prohibition of 
cannabis is a smokescreen against people being able to cultivate and 
value-add an industrial resource.

"It denies us direct access to medicine, so that pharmaceutical 
companies can profit," he said.

dagga couple will have their legalisation case heard in March next 
year. They have a heavyweight legal arsenal and several expert witnesses.

According to lobbyists who wish to see marijuana legalised, dagga 
prosecutions place a burden on the prison system and waste money that 
could be better spent on rehabilitation.

One lobbyist, who did not want to be named, said: "An average of 5 
600 people are imprisoned each year for possession. This means it is 
costing the country R511-million to imprison nonviolent criminals."

At current rates for first-class treatment, that is enough to send 
about 25 000 people to a rehabilitation centre for a month.

"Money could be much better spent on prevention, rehabilitation and 
education instead of punishment and taking up valuable prison space 
and police time," the lobbyist said.

Quintin van Kerken, CEO of the Anti Drug Alliance South Africa, has 
compiled a report on the cost of policing dagga.

Using official statistics released after Operation Fiela and figures 
for drug-related arrests for 2014-15, he estimated that the state 
spent more than R3.5-billion to arrest, detain, investigate and 
prosecute people for possession and for dealing in marijuana.

The issue is also on the agenda in parliament. Before committing 
suicide last year, IFP MP Mario Ambrosini, who had terminal lung 
cancer, appealed to his colleagues in the National Assembly to 
consider a bill that would allow research on the medicinal use of 
marijuana. Parliament's health portfolio committee is working on the bill.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom