Gallery gets giggles as ConCourt mulls on dope

Court: Judge's technical question about marijuana creates much mirth

08 November 2017 - 08:29 By Katharine Child
LET'S BE BLUNT: Bob Greenhash, an activist for the legalisation of marijuana in South Africa, has a puff of a joint outside the Constitutional Court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Tuesday
LET'S BE BLUNT: Bob Greenhash, an activist for the legalisation of marijuana in South Africa, has a puff of a joint outside the Constitutional Court in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Tuesday
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

The Constitutional Court heard argument for and against the private use of dagga yesterday, causing several light moments, including a judge inquiring about "reasonable amounts" of dagga.

Laughter broke out when acting Chief Justice Ray Zondo asked a question about whether 20mg was a reasonable amount of dagga for private use.

The question was a technical issue, but the public gallery giggled in delight.

The court was unusually colourful with Rastafarian and lawyer Garreth Prince representing himself and sporting a bright red and green flowing robe.

Supporting the case was a group of traditional healers, all dressed in red and holding balloons, and people in traditional clothing supporting the San people.

Members of the public also mirrored the colourful spirit. A long-haired man called Greendolf wore long robes and carried a long staff emblazoned with a dagga sticker.

The court needs to decide whether to uphold a Cape Town High Court decision that a ban on lighting up a joint in the privacy of one's own home is unconstitutional.

In response to a case brought by Prince and Jeremy Acton of the Dagga Party of South Africa, the High Court decided in March laws that banned private use of dagga in a person's home violated the constitutional right to privacy. It ordered parliament to remake laws governing the cultivation and private use of dagga within two years.

But the state appealed against the decision in the highest court in the land.

Thomas Bokaba SAC, representing the state, said smoking dagga increased crime, affected the poor the most and caused mental illness and psychosis.

He was unable to answer repeated questions from Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga on how legislators could decide to allow alcohol, which is harmful, but ban dagga.

Because Prince and Acton are both representing themselves, the court asked Ron Paschke SC to present evidence as an "intervening party".

Paschke labelled the state's evidence "inadequate" and said the state had failed to prove its case that banning dagga was less harmful than allowing it.

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