Rasta lawyer to challenge drugs act

Cape Town - In his bid to change the law relating to the use of dagga, Rastafarian lawyer Garreth Prince intends to challenge sections of the Drugs and Trafficking Act, specifically to see the Rastafarian community allowed to use the “holy herb” as part of their religion.

And Friday Prince overcame a small hurdle when he secured a stay of the pending criminal proceedings against him and his family, for the possession of and dealing in dagga, while he launches proceedings in the Western Cape High Court to challenge the act.

Rastafarian lawyer Garreth Prince leaves the Cape Town High Court. Picture: Leon Lestrade. Credit: INLSA

Prince has a legal qualification but is not an admitted attorney. Since Prince also has previous dagga-related convictions, his criminal record prevented him from adding his name to the roll of admitted attorneys from the Cape Law Society in 2002.

Prince, his wife, Juanita Adams, and daughter Samantha Adams were arrested in June last year after police raided their Glencairn home and found several dagga plants and 500g of dried dagga.

It is Prince’s case, however, that he and his family use dagga strictly for religious purposes.

While they initially appeared in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court, the case was transferred to the Khayelitsha Regional Court, and is still pending.

Prince turned to the high court yesterday where he argued, before Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso and Judge Nape Dolamo, that the pending regional criminal proceedings should be stayed to give him the opportunity to launch a “full frontal challenge” to the constitutional validity of the sections of the act.

He submitted that the lower courts lacked the jurisdiction to hear the constitutional issues. The interests of justice required that the high court determine the constitutional issues.

“I’m saying, in essence, that the law, as it stands, unfairly and unjustly and disproportionately impacts on the ability of the Rastafarian community to live their lives in the manner that the constitution guarantees,” he said.

Judge Traverso said the court could not close the doors to Prince, but added that no court in its right mind would allow criminal proceedings to continue in the lower courts while a constitutional challenge was pending before the high court.

She urged the parties to reach agreement on the issue so that criminal proceedings were stayed, and Prince could launch the constitutional challenge.