IN PICTURES: For the love or hate of weed

Crowds flock to back or protest legalisation

17 August 2017 - 08:31 By Katherine Child
Members of the Concerned Young People of SA outside the Pretoria High Court last month. Jules Stobbs and his partner, Myrtle Clarke, are mounting a legal challenge to dagga laws.
Members of the Concerned Young People of SA outside the Pretoria High Court last month. Jules Stobbs and his partner, Myrtle Clarke, are mounting a legal challenge to dagga laws.
Image: Alaister Russell

Caiti Woollcott recently returned to Johannesburg after spending six years in Thailand and now spends her Fridays at the dagga trial in Pretoria.

She looks the part - a hippie with dreads, a reversible skirt and John Lennon-styled glasses with plastic peace signs on them. But the guitar appears more a prop than a used instrument.

"Peace and love," she sings, "peace and love."

Her song contrasts with the cries of anti-drug protesters in front of her screaming: "In with Jesus and out with dagga."

Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, the "dagga couple", have asked the Pretoria High Court to find the ban on adult dagga use unconstitutional and instruct parliament to make a new law.

Caiti Woolcott plays guitar outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in support of the case brought by the Dagga Couple who have taken the fight to legalise Marijuana to court.
Caiti Woolcott plays guitar outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in support of the case brought by the Dagga Couple who have taken the fight to legalise Marijuana to court.
Image: Alaister Russell

The case has aggravated some people in communities beset with nyaope and tik use and protesters come to court each day courtesy of transport provided by the Gauteng department of social development.

They scream: "Dagga kills," "Dagga causes rapists" and "Phansi ngentsango".

Woollcott says she doesn't understand the argument that dagga is a gateway drug.

"People have choices. I choose not to use heroin. People have a choice."

As protesters scream: "Dagga is killing our children," Woollcott repeats her peace and love mantra while strumming her guitar.

Sikhumbule Bululu says he believes dagga is killing the youth of South Africa.
Sikhumbule Bululu says he believes dagga is killing the youth of South Africa.
Image: Alaister Russell

At times the protesters, wearing yellow government-sponsored T-shirts, have been aggressive and have been prevented by their self-appointed leader, Eldorado activist Derelene James, from talking to the media.

Other times they are jubilant, dancing in the road and obstructing the traffic.

"I am high on life, not dagga," their signs read.

Among the protesters there are several former drug addicts who are staying at the Mission Kwasizabantu in Kranskop, KwaZulu-Natal.

One of the mission's preachers is also a doctor, Albertus van Eeden, who runs Doctors for Life, an NGO that opted to join the dagga case and oppose the couple. Van Eeden is in court every day.

Julian Stobbs, one half of the Dagga Couple, looks on as those opposed and for the legalisation of Marijuana argue outside the North Gauteng High Court. Stokes took up the legal battle against prohibition laws against cannabis after being arrested and harassed by policemen in his home in 2010.
Julian Stobbs, one half of the Dagga Couple, looks on as those opposed and for the legalisation of Marijuana argue outside the North Gauteng High Court. Stokes took up the legal battle against prohibition laws against cannabis after being arrested and harassed by policemen in his home in 2010.
Image: Alaister Russell

Some of the addicts have compelling stories to tell, like Marcel Coleski from Port Elizabeth who started smoking at 14 years old, got expelled from school and then dropped out of a new school.

"The principal [at the new school] gave me a chance but I was rebellious," says Coleski.

It was a schoolfriend's father who smoked with them, providing them with dagga.

Six years later Coleski experimented with harder drugs like tik and nyaope, introduced to him by his friends. He was even living on the streets before attending a free rehabilitation clinic.

Moses Malatiie from Atteridgeville outside the North Gauteng High Court during protests against the legalisation of marijuana. Malatiie says that if marijuana is legalised we will loose the country to foreigners who will cross borders to sell the plant.
Moses Malatiie from Atteridgeville outside the North Gauteng High Court during protests against the legalisation of marijuana. Malatiie says that if marijuana is legalised we will loose the country to foreigners who will cross borders to sell the plant.
Image: Alaister Russell

When he was arrested for stealing a laptop from a friend for drug money, he was already at rehab so the court was "lenient with me".

After rehab, he moved to Mission Kwasizabantu in the Free State then to Kranskop in KwaZulu- Natal where he was able to get back on his feet.

"I have reconciled with my family. I can talk to my mother's boyfriend now. Before, there were issues."

It is hard to get an answer from those protesting as to how the current drug policy of criminalising dagga use is working to prevent drug abuse.

When asked why many people who try dagga often do not switch to harder drugs, the oft-repeated reply from many is: "Dagga is a gateway drug."

Myrtle Clarke, one half of the ‘dagga couple’ who are pushing for legalisation.
Myrtle Clarke, one half of the ‘dagga couple’ who are pushing for legalisation.
Image: Alaister Russell
Dr Marlon Germon poses for a portrait outside the North Gauteng High court in Pretoria. Germon is a qualified medical doctor who has travelled abroad to study the benefits of medical marijuana.
Dr Marlon Germon poses for a portrait outside the North Gauteng High court in Pretoria. Germon is a qualified medical doctor who has travelled abroad to study the benefits of medical marijuana.
Image: Alaister Russell
Charl Henning outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Henning runs the 'Join the Queue' section of the Fields of Green website that provides support to those who have been arrested for possession of marijuana. They assist in implementing stay of prosecution until the outcomes of the trail of the plant is complete.
Charl Henning outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Henning runs the 'Join the Queue' section of the Fields of Green website that provides support to those who have been arrested for possession of marijuana. They assist in implementing stay of prosecution until the outcomes of the trail of the plant is complete.
Image: Alaister Russell
Imiel Visser outside the court room where the Trail of the Plant is taking place. Visser, who lives in Guateng, took a months leave to assist The Dagga Couple in their case. He runs a website called High Alert, a cannabis culture website and support group for concerned citizens in South Africa.
Imiel Visser outside the court room where the Trail of the Plant is taking place. Visser, who lives in Guateng, took a months leave to assist The Dagga Couple in their case. He runs a website called High Alert, a cannabis culture website and support group for concerned citizens in South Africa.
Image: Alaister Russell
Imperial College Professor David Nutt poses after court proceedings. Nutt is a psychiatrist and neuropharmacologist who has studied the effects of drug abuse on the brain. In his testimony he claimed the use of cannabis is not a gateway drug, using the legalisation of the plant in Netherlands as an example. He found that legal cannabis reduced the number of people switching to harder drugs.
Imperial College Professor David Nutt poses after court proceedings. Nutt is a psychiatrist and neuropharmacologist who has studied the effects of drug abuse on the brain. In his testimony he claimed the use of cannabis is not a gateway drug, using the legalisation of the plant in Netherlands as an example. He found that legal cannabis reduced the number of people switching to harder drugs.
Image: Alaister Russell
X