Pietermaritzburg – The battle to legalise the use of dagga could reach the Constitutional Court if a Howick farmer has his way.
John Lawrence Strydom, 44, has launched a Pietermaritzburg High Court application against the minister of justice and the office of the director of public prosecutions.
Strydom wants criminal proceedings against him for the possession and cultivation of dagga to be stayed.
This was in order for him to approach the Constitutional Court to have certain parts of the Illicit Drugs and Trafficking Act of 1992 and the Medicines and Related Substances Controlled Act of 1965, relating to the use, possession of and dealing in dagga, declared to be in violation of the Bill of Rights.
He was arrested on November 12 for the possession of almost 5kg of dagga on Freelands Farm, Lions River.
Police said they also seized equipment used to grow the plants.
However, Acting Judge Piet Bezuidenhout informed Strydom that the charges against him had been provisionally withdrawn, which rendered his application moot.
But Strydom, representing himself in the criminal and civil proceedings, believes the charges could be reinstated at any time and insisted the application be heard.
The case was then adjourned for a date to be arranged.
In an affidavit to the court, Strydom said the word dagga (from the Khoi word dacha) has been used by the police and media in South Africa to stigmatise the plant and the people who use it.
He said he wished to de-stigmatise the use of the word and ultimately give the dagga plant “its rightful place in society, for the benefit of the citizens of South Africa”.
He admitted that he has been using dagga for 28 years without harm.
“I smoke it and eat it for its known medical benefits and as a part of my own spiritual beliefs and practices.
“I regularly consume it as part of my daily diet and as a health supplement,” he said on Monday.
Strydom said he also made medicine from the plant extract for his own health issues, and when necessary, he “shares freely with various terminally ill people who rely on dagga medication to survive or have some quality of life”.
He said personal research into the medical benefits and economic potential of dagga had led him to seek a scientific justification for the law as it stands, which Strydom considers to be a violation of his constitutional rights.
“The law against dagga and the persecution of members of the dagga culture violates the Bill of Rights,” he said.
Strydom said he also wanted to defend his right to use dagga for his own benefit.
“I am dedicated to building a culture and spirituality centred upon the dagga tree as a direct personal access to communion with the Creator.”
Strydom confirmed that he is a member of Iqela Lentsango, the Dagga Party of South Africa, and reiterated that dagga seeds were not narcotic, but instead contained up to 24 percent protein with all the amino acids necessary for human nutrition.
“Dagga is only prohibited because it cannot be patented and because it is estimated that pharmaceutical corporations would lose millions in revenue if the public insisted on their rights to access cannabis for purposes of self-medication,” he said.