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State asks that dagga case excludes medical use of dagga

02 August 2017 - 15:05 By Katharine Child
Dagga legalisation law marijuana gavel.
Dagga legalisation law marijuana gavel.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

The dagga trial is yet to get off to a convincing start as the state has asked that certain portions of evidence on the effects of dagga use be removed.

Johannesburg residents Myrtle Clarke and Jules Stobbs have asked the Pretoria High Court to legalise the use and sale of dagga for medical and recreational reasons.

The pair‚ nicknamed the dagga couple‚ stand accused of possession and dealing in marijuana‚ but their 2010 criminal case has been delayed by their bid to have dagga legalised.

Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California and oncologist Donald Abrams was set to testify on Wednesday morning on the medical use of dagga.

The US professor's research shows dagga is good to use for nausea‚ appetite stimulation and pain control in cancer and other patients. He states it has some anti-depressant properties and helps with some people's insomnia.

Abrams has sat listening intently to arguments that have delayed the start of the trial.

State advocate Leah Gcabashe SC argues the summaries of evidence provided by Stobbs and Clarke include irrelevant articles that must be removed from the court evidence. The state pointed to an article on pregnancy among middle class women‚ that is among thousands of pages of evidence.

Judge Natu Ranchod said he could not decide if the evidence was irrelevant‚ before the trial started and he had heard the witness testimony.

"I cannot make a finding until I hear this [in court] in fairness to the plaintiffs and the defence."

Ranchod pointed out that hearing the evidence would give the defence a chance to cross examine the witnesses and question the relevance of their testimony.

Ranchod said if the evidence presented in court was not relevant‚ he would disregard it.

Gcabashe also asked Ranchod to remove all evidence‚ testimony and arguments on the medical use of dagga. This because the late IFP MP Mario Ambrosini brought a private members bill to parliament to legalise the use of dagga for medical reasons.

Gcabashe said 19 days of court time to hear evidence on dagga use was not necessary‚ as the case should confine itself to whether the ban on using and selling dagga was constitutional.

Ranchod said the bill discussing the medical use of dagga was not yet law‚ so it couldn’t stop court argument on the same issue.

"At this stage… it is a bill. I cannot afford it any more weight‚ because it remains a bill. It is not enacted. There could be changes and objections."

Doctors for Life advocate Reg Willis said the court case should not be taking place.

"We ought not to be here". He argued this because Judge Dennis Davies's judgment legalising the private use of dagga in one's home will be appealed on November 7 at the constitutional court.

He asked that the case be postponed until the constitutional court ruling is made.

Willis said that if the judge ruled on the medical use of dagga and potentially changed the law‚ then Ranchod would be breaching parliament's powers to enact new laws.

Willis has also asked that some evidence be removed and complained about the length of 400-page summaries of one witness' opinion on dagga use.

The dagga couple have changed the flights of their expert witnesses due to the delays in the case starting. The first two days of the trial concerned whether they could live stream it.