‘Dagga use can still land you in jail – for now’: law expert

On March 31, the court ruled that it was an infringement of the constitutional right to privacy to ban the possession, cultivation and private use of dagga by adults at home. However, legal experts say it would take 24 months before dagga may be legalised.

The application to legalise marijuana was brought to the courts in December by the head of the Dagga Party of South Africa, Jeremy Acton, along with Rastafarian lawyer, Gareth Prince, and 18 others, who argued that the distinction between dagga, alcohol, and tobacco was irrational and could not be justified.

“Although the court made the finding today, our law requires this finding will still have to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court,” said Prince after the ruling.

Parliament’s Spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, confirmed that the legislature was given 24 months to make relevant changes to the legislation, but added that will only happen if the Constitutional Court confirms the Western Cape High Court’s landmark judgment on private dagga use.

“If the two laws mentioned have been found to be unconstitutional, then the Constitutional Court would have to confirm the judgment before Parliament can act,” he said, adding that the State could also appeal the ruling of the judges.

Myrtle Clarke, who with her partner Julian Stobbs, are known as Pretoria’s ‘dagga couple’, welcomed the Western Cape High Court ruling but also cautioned that until the law changes it was still illegal for people to smoke dagga in their homes. The couple are fighting for the legalisation of dagga in a case before the Pretoria High Court, which Clarke said was much broader than the Western Cape case and would include evidence by experts related to the benefits of cultivating and using dagga for certain conditions.

Meanwhile, police reported that four suspects, aged between 26 and 41, were arrested for possessions of dagga and a suspected stolen car at Grobler’s Bridge Port of Entry over the weekend.

In Makhado, six people, aged between 22 and 34, were arrested after they were found with an estimated R15 000 worth of dagga. In Mokopane, nine people were arrested and R8 700 worth of dagga confiscated.

In Groblersdal, two suspects aged 31 and 43 are facing possession of dagga charges after they were found with 16 kg of the drug, with an estimated street value of R52 000.

In the Tzaneen and Giyani area, eight suspects were arrested and 20 plastic bags of dagga with a street value of R6 000 recovered.

The suspects are expected to appear in various magistrate’s courts this week.

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Neville Maakana

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