Dagga couple Myrtle Clarke and Julian. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/ANA
WHEN the word is spoken out loud, many people look fearfully over their shoulder to see if there is a policeman.

This is what Julian Stobbs told me in 2011. He and his partner Myrtle Clarke had been arrested on charges of possession of dagga.

Well, seven years later, no one needs to look fearfully over their shoulder when talking about dagga, cannabis or marijuana.

Because, thanks largely to the “dagga couple”, the Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling legalising the personal use of dagga. I still vividly recall how I, in the 1980s, as a court reporter, I frequented Court M at the magistrate’s court - the drug court as I wanted to see what “these oddballs using dagga” looked like.

Turned out they were quite normal.

Stobbs and Clarke are lovely people - ordinary citizens who fought for what they believed in. And I take my hat off to them for that.

Millions of South Africans, before last week’s judgment, broke the law by smoking a joint. But it took the “dagga couple” to stand up to the government. They asked the question many dared not to: How come this useful, non-toxic plant led to persecution?

They argued they did not harm others. The only harm was when overzealous and heavy-handed police officials raided normally law-abiding citizens for lighting a joint for own use.

Stobbs and Clarke were in their own home near Lanseria, in their pajamas, when the police raided it. While sniffer dogs were looking “for lethal drugs”, the couple had to contend with aggressive rifle-carrying officials. After an ordeal that lasted five hours, the couple decided enough is enough.

The dagga couple have won the first round of the battle but many questions remain. How on earth do you get hold of your dagga plant or stash, as it is still illegal to sell dagga?

How many plants are you allowed to have in your garden, before it exceeds the limits of possession? And how much dagga may you have for personal consumption? The dagga couple will return to court soon as they want all laws pertaining to the use of this holy herb to go up in smoke.