An ill Boksburg man has obtained a court order to stay his criminal trial for possessing, manufacturing and dealing in dagga pending the outcome of a constitutional challenge aimed at legalising the substance in South Africa.
Judge Ronel Tolmay granted an order in the high court in Pretoria to stay the criminal trial of Clifford Thorp, 58, pending the final outcome of his legal battle to legalise the medicinal use of dagga.
The court in November last year granted Thorp permission to join the application of Julian Stobbs and his partner Myrtle Clarke, also known as the “Dagga couple”, in their legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act that outlaws the possession of and dealing in dagga.
The couple, who were arrested during a 2010 police raid on their smallholding in Lanseria, maintain their human rights were violated by a law that was unjust, not supported by any scientific evidence and outdated, and that smoking dagga should not be seen as a crime at all.
Thorp, who suffers from debilitating back pain, chronic nausea and vomiting caused by obstructive pulmonary disease and skin cancer, started growing his own dagga for medical purposes in 2014, but was arrested in January last year.
He said dagga was extremely effective for pain relief, significantly reduced his nausea and vomiting, increased his appetite and gave him a far better quality of life. He sometimes smoked dagga to help him sleep, but mostly consumed it in the form of butter and cannabis oil to assist in healing malignant growths on his skin.
Although he used dagga for medicinal purposes, he supported the dagga couple’s efforts to have the responsible adult recreational use of dagga legalised.
“I believe that the right to choose what to consume, in instances where consumption of more harmful substances is permitted, is fundamental and finds its place in various rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights,” he said.
His advocate argued that Thorpe would be unable to cope with the stress and deprivations of a criminal trial and feared that his condition would worsen.
If he were tried and convicted before the constitutional challenge was finalised he would also be unable to visit his grandchildren in the United Kingdom and feared he would never see them again.
Thorpe maintains the prohibition on medicinal dagga does not serve a legitimate government purpose, as there are less restrictive means available to regulate its use.