Peace and love didn’t prevail at dagga trial

11 August 2017 - 18:33 By Katharine Child
Caiti Woollcott gestures to protesters opposing the legalisation of cannabis outside the North Gauteng High Court after the dagga couple challenged the constitutionality of dagga laws
Caiti Woollcott gestures to protesters opposing the legalisation of cannabis outside the North Gauteng High Court after the dagga couple challenged the constitutionality of dagga laws
Image: Alaister Russell/The Times

Protesters tried to out scream each other outside the high court in Pretoria after the dagga trial adjourned for the day.

About 50 anti-dagga protesters from Eldorado Park‚ wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the word "cannibis" (sic) and the Gauteng Department of Social Development’s logo‚ faced off against a handful of pro-dagga activists.

Johannesburg residents Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are asking the high court to deem the laws banning the adult use and sale of dagga unconstitutional and to instruct Parliament to make new laws.

Next week‚ the dagga couple's trial will bring in a South African historian to explain the use of dagga prior to the 1903 banning by the colonial government.

Some of the anti-dagga demonstrators said the Gauteng government had provided them with transport to the court. They screamed "Dagga kills. Out with dagga and in with Jesus. Out with dagga and in with Jesus."

Cati Woollcott‚ a Johannesburg resident‚ stood in front of them and played her guitar singing "peace and love‚ peace and love"‚ but she could not be heard above the anti-dagga refrains.

A pro-dagga demonstrator with dreadlocks shouted: "You like apartheid. You like apartheid."

The yellow T-shirt clad protesters screamed: "Dagga is killing our children. Dagga is killing our children".

"Your children kill themselves‚" someone shouted back.

The pro-legalisation protesters were outnumbered. Stobbs said: "Our supporters have jobs‚ pay taxes and are upstanding members of society. They are not here. They are at work"

Attempts by Timeslive to talk to the anti-dagga protesters were met with "no comment". They had been instructed by their leader‚ Eldorado Park activist Derelene James‚ not to talk to journalists.

She said: "Leave us alone. I told you no comment. What does no comment mean? How dare you write down what I told you? You better not quote me or else. Don’t write a word‚" threatened James.

An elderly woman wearing a government branded T-shirt looked at the reporter notebook's and said: "Her handwriting looks as if she is high."

Amid the noise‚ Clarke asked two protesters how jailing people for tik and nyoape was reducing the use of addictive drugs‚ crime and violence in Eldorado Park. They did not answer.

As protesters got into waiting mini-buses to take them home‚ a young man wearing a school shirt and tie underneath his yellow T-shirt shouted loudly: "Do we want our children to be stoned?"

The refrain "dagga is the gateway drug" was constantly repeated over the past two weeks by people opposing the legalisation of dagga.

One protester‚ who did not give his name‚ said he had been addicted to nyoape but has "been clean for six months". He started smoking nyoape‚ a form of low grade heroin‚ after smoking dagga on street corners in Eldorado Park.

"It's [dagga] a gateway drug‚" he said.

The protesters shouted "phansi dagga" as star witness Professor David Nutt‚ a qualified psychiatrist and neurologist‚ tried to make his way through the crowd. He remained calm as the protesters' voices reached a crescendo and they pushed and danced.

"Peace and love‚ peace and love‚" repeated Woollcott.

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