Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court is to decide on an application to stay the prosecutions of people facing dagga-related charges.
The applicant, Jeremy Acton, leader of the Dagga Party of SA, was in court when Judge Nolwazi Boqwana heard argument on Friday.
Acton asked that the court order a temporary halt to the prosecution of people across the country facing charges over dagga possession or dealing pending the outcome of a legal challenge against the legislation that criminalises dagga.
This included his own prosecution in the Montagu Magistrate’s Court, where he was facing charges of possession of dagga.
According to Acton, stays of prosecution had been granted in several dagga-related cases.
He said he was not asking that no one be arrested as the police had a duty to apply the law as it stood. However, he wanted their prosecutions to be postponed and in the event that the “prohibition” on dagga was made “a permanent thing”, the prosecutions could be reinstated.
“I feel only harm is being done by the implementation of this prohibition,” he said. “I think it’ll be a worthy experiment to create this space and observe the effects.”
Thomas Bokaba, SC, for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, argued that the effect of such a “far-reaching” order would be the “decriminalisation” of dagga.
It would also effectively mean a moratorium on the prosecution of dagga cases, he said. A moratorium could be granted only after a court had pronounced on the constitutionality of a statute, which could be done only by the Constitutional Court.
“The effect would be that no one can be prosecuted until the finalisation of the Constitutional Court matter.”
Bokaba contended that if this happened, there would be a big backlog in cases if there was ultimately a ruling that there was “nothing wrong with the criminalisation of dagga”.
Judgment was reserved.