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Dagga couple fight on to legalise herb

The so-called “dagga couple”, Myrtle Clarke and Julian Stobbs.

The so-called “dagga couple”, Myrtle Clarke and Julian Stobbs.

Published Jul 31, 2017

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Legalise it. This will be theme for the next month in the high court in Pretoria when the pungent-smelling green plant known as dagga or cannabis will again come under the spotlight.

Judge Natvarlal Ranchod will hear the evidence of a host of experts called in by the so-called “dagga couple”, Myrtle Clarke and her partner Julian Stobbs.

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They are, through the organisation Field of Green for All, calling for legislation banning the use of cannabis in all forms to go up in smoke.

Judge Dennis Davis issued a judgment earlier this year in the Western Cape High Court in which he declared as invalid legislation banning the use of this plant by adults in the privacy of their own homes.

He gave Parliament 24 months in which to change laws that were inconsistent with the constitutional right to privacy.

But the dagga couple’s legal bid, which starts today, goes much further. Clarke said Judge Davis’s judgment ticked the first box, but the fight to legalise cannabis had just begun.

Trading in cannabis will be one of the aspects the couple will fight for. Clarke said it does not make sense to be able to use it when you cannot sell or grow it.

“To have it, you must grow or buy it.”

They will call nine experts to testify on a range of topics concerning cannabis. The topics to be covered over the next 19 days will range from the healing powers of cannabis to its cultural, historical, economic and traditional aspects.

“We are ready for this battle. We have in fact been ready for a long time, and we are confident that we have a good case. We have all our bases covered,” Clarke said.

The government, however, is set on opposing the application and is expected to call its own witnesses to counter the couple's arguments.

The couple's legal bid has been on the cards for about six years - since they were arrested on cannabis-related charges. Their criminal trial was put on hold pending the outcome of this legal challenge.

They said that they have been using the plant for decades, and that as upstanding and tax-paying citizens, it was their right to do so.

By comparing legislative developments, the prohibition of cannabis could no longer be justified in South Africa, they argued.

The aim of their legal challenge was to educate the public and the authorities about the use of cannabis, to prove that it was not harmful, they said. In cancer patients, dagga is said to reduce pain.

The State is expected to set out the “harmful and addictive” aspects of this green leaf.

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