Mothers of drug addicts to testify for state in dagga legalisation case

03 August 2017 - 18:55 By Katharine Child
Mothers of drug addicts from townships will testify for the government against Johannesburg residents Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke‚ charged with possession and dealing in dagga. File photo.
Mothers of drug addicts from townships will testify for the government against Johannesburg residents Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke‚ charged with possession and dealing in dagga. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Mothers of drug addicts from townships devastated by the "scourge of drugs" will testify for the government in their case against the dagga couple.

Johannesburg residents Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke‚ charged with possession and dealing in dagga‚ have brought a case to have the law banning dagga use ruled unconstitutional and sent back to parliament for rewriting.

State advocate Bogoshi Bokaba SC said that it didn’t matter what developed countries did to manage drugs‚ the state's argument would tell the South African story.

"Of course the plaintiffs [ dagga couple] will tell you about developed countries and cannabis. They will not tell you the stories of South Africa.

"This is the real world we live in‚ the real South Africa‚ not another country." Bokaba said places including Eldorado Park‚ Mamelodi‚ Langa and Sunnyside were badly affected by many people using drugs such as Nyaope.

He also argued that the dagga couple did not have a legal case to bring as the medical use of marijuana was introduced for discussion to parliament in 2014 by the late IFP MP Mario Ambrosini.

He reminded the court that a full bench of the Western Cape High Court legalised the private use of dagga and this case is being appealed at the Constitutional court on November 7.

Therefore the case had nothing to look at‚ he said‚ as the Constitutional Court and parliament were already reviewing dagga laws. "It is the principle of the separation of powers… They [Stobbs and Clarke] must go and make representations before parliament."

Bokaba said the only reason there was a court case was for the couple to avoid criminal prosecution.

"These proceedings have been launched by plaintiffs so they can delay the serious criminal charges they are facing before the court."

Stobbs and Clarke were arrested with 1.87 kilograms of dagga in their home and charged with possession and dealing in dagga in 2010.

Reg Willis‚ advocate for Doctors for Life‚ told the court that it believed dagga should remain banned.

"There are three reasons cannabis should be on a banned list of substances: it has the potential for addiction and harm‚ it does not have medical benefits and it is not safe."

Wills said there was no accepted medical reason to use dagga. The first witness who could not testify due to a delay to the start of the trial‚ oncologist Donald Abrams was going to tell the court how dagga is useful to reduce nausea and pain in his cancer patients.

Wills told the court one only had to look at other countries to see "how the legalisation of dagga abroad led to businesses scrambling to meet the demands of drug addicts‚ who were then forced into financial ruin." He said the dagga couple wanted the law changed so they could be dealers and were only bringing the case to avoid criminal prosecution.

Because parliament and the Constitutional Court were looking at dagga use‚ the case was not in the "public interest of South Africa‚ but in the couple's interest only".

Advocate Don Mahon‚ for the couple‚ said the dagga couple admitted there was harm in dagga use but their case would examine if the harm was outweighed by the benefits. It would also review the harm caused by jailing people for dagga use and sale.

He asked: "Are the harms of dagga so great‚ so severe to justify the blunt broad force of criminalisation?”

Mahon also said other harmful substances such as alcohol‚ tobacco and sugar were not banned and their users not jailed. 

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