When the topic of marijuana in the justice system is normally discussed, it is usually in the context of an individual who is on trial for possession or trafficking. But right now, in South Africa, the constitutional right to use marijuana is being examined before the courts.
A constitutional challenge in the Pretoria High Court was launched on July 31st by Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, also known as “The Dagga (marijuana) Couple.” Together, the two have claimed that prosecuting and jailing someone for possessing and growing cannabis for personal use is against the South African constitutional right to dignity.
The 19-day trial has seen government officials and experts arguing for and against the potential historic decision to legalize cannabis in South Africa. A move which, if accepted, will undoubtedly act as a catalyst for cannabis reform across the continent.
The trial is being live-streamed for all to see.
Marijuana.com caught up with The Dagga Couple by email over the weekend to learn more about the proceedings.
(Marijuana.com) First, why are you called the Dagga Couple?
(Jules Stobbs) We were labeled the Dagga Couple by the South African media and we just left it at that. Dagga is a historically and politically charged word in South Africa so we’ve run with it. Far more emotive than cannabis.
Can you describe the trial in more detail?
We are not on trial, the plant is.
This is a constitutional hearing to ascertain whether it is our constitutional right to use weed. The State are the defendants and we are the plaintiffs for the first time in history. The State has to prove that their method of keeping cannabis illegal is the best way. To date, they haven’t in any form.
What is the current legality of cannabis in South Africa?
If you win this current trial, will marijuana be effectively legalized in South Africa?
It’s not a win lose situation, we are pioneering for change. It is doubtful this trial will finish this session [as] the State is constantly dragging the proceedings. We’ve lost 4 days in the last 10.
What is the latest from the trial?
The latest from the trial after week 2 is the State has succeeded in grinding the proceedings to a crawl. Their cross examination of [Professor] Nutt [was] hostile and unnecessary. There are plenty of reports all over the web, search #TOTplant.
How likely are you to win the whole trial?
It’s inevitable. We’ve won the intellectual argument time and time again. Cannabis will be legalized in South Africa on the strength of the evidence.
How would you like to see marijuana legalization in South Africa take shape? In stores? Growing your own? All of the above?
[We want] a completely free market. Any other form of legalization worldwide is just a dressed up form of prohibition.
The evidence on the relative harms of weed versus tobacco and alcohol will ensure cannabis cannot be regulated any more strictly than these two legal substances.
As this historic trial for the freedom to use cannabis without persecution continues, the significance of a win would reach far beyond the confines of one nation.
It would represent a stark example that cannabis prohibition has been an utter failure. It will also further the call to governments, police, activists, and general citizens of the world, that locking a human being in a cage for making the personal choice to enjoy marijuana is simply the wrong thing to do.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett