Ernest Wolmarans
3 minute read
21 Apr 2014
6:00 am

D-Day to legalise dagga in SA

Ernest Wolmarans

Puffs of smoke plumed out into the air, a distinctive aroma not far behind, as visitors enjoyed the laid back, jovial atmosphere at a fundraiser held in support of the "Dagga Couple" – regular smokers determined to challenge laws restricting recreational and medicinal use of the plant in South African society.


“Today’s event challenges the non-believers to come and look at all these people who are ‘useless’ to society and the economy, who ‘need’ to be put in jail as ‘enemies of the state’,” said Julian Stobbs, organiser of the event and one half of the “couple”, in a warehouse near the trendy Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg yesterday.

He was referring to the significant turnout at the South African version of D.Day 4.20, an annual street party held, this year, in around 160 cities across the world as the global debate about the legalisation of marijuana continues.

While the event aims to raise awareness of the positive effects of marijuana use and cannabis culture, South Africans were also all too happy to pay the R50 entry fee in support of Stobbs and partner Myrtle Clarke’s High Court appearance in March next year.

“We need around R4 million to get from the High Court to the Constitutional Court, where we will push for change in legislation based on the stigma attached to the drug by ancient legislation still enforced today,” said Stobbs.

Having used the herb recreationally for 32 years, Stobbs

said he saw no reason why he, or many of the visitors at yesterday’s party, should be “treated like criminals” for using a drug that does “more good than harm”.

He attributed much of his good health, physically and mentally, to marijuana, and noted that the drug was already being used for medicinal purposes in the US.

“It’s our human right to put what we want in our bodies. Dagga use is a global affair and if the law is changed here in South Africa, the rest of the world won’t have a leg to stand on,” he said.

Clarke, the other half of the “couple”, said most of the funds were needed to transport around 16 expert witnesses, about half of whom are from overseas, for the upcoming High Court appearance. “The goal is to have their expertise and solutions available for if and when the case moves on to the ConCourt,” Clarke said.

Regarding claims that marijuana is a gateway drug to hardcore substances like heroine and “tik”, Stobbs said: “The drug isn’t the gateway, the person is. It all depends on the type of person involved, their temperament and their circumstances,” he said.

Stobbs and Clarke were arrested in August 2010 and faced a charge of drug dealing when they were found in possession of over 105 grams of dagga in their home.

Their case was struck from the court roll, pending the outcome of their challenge to the legality of the dagga-prohibition legislation in the High Court after they served summons on seven government departments to account for the “unlawful” legislation.

Many people at the event agreed there were benefits to the legalisation of marijuana, and all interviewed backed it completely.

Gerrit Stumka, who has used dagga recreationally for seven years, said legalisation would benefit the country economically. “Government should legalise it, tax it and use the cash for education, health.”

He said the notion of dagga being a gateway drug stemmed from the prohibition law.

“The dealer is the gateway because the buyer is exposed to all the other drugs he is dealing,” said Stumka.

The medicinal benefits of the herb could also not be discounted. “It’s been shown that marijuana has cancer-fighting capabilities,” he said.

Another smoker, who declined to be named, said the occasional joint helped her manage pain from Lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s antibodies to attack the immune system. “I smoke and the pain goes away,” she said. –