Evidence weak in historic dagga case - lawyer

Cape Town – A lawyer representing various government ministries in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday said nearly 3 000 pages of evidence, in a historic case involving an application to have the prohibition of dagga overturned, is weak and should not be allowed by the court.

Several Rastafarians arrived at the court to follow the application.

"We are challenging the constitutionality of the laws on the grounds that they are unjust and unfair, and that they unfairly discriminate against the Rastafarian community and the cannabis community," said Rastafarian Garreth Prince.

Prince and the Dagga Party, led by Jeremy Acton, each face criminal charges related to alleged possession of dagga, and believe that people who choose to use the green-leafed herb for religious and health reasons are being unfairly discriminated against.

Supporters of an application to have the prohibiti
Supporters of an application to have the prohibition of dagga overturned outside court. (Jenni Evans/News24)

They believe the prohibition also discriminates against African religious practices, curbs individual choice, and makes it impossible to use the plant for any economic benefits.

Prince, who hails from Kraaifontein, sat behind a mound of legal documents that would be referred to in the application which was lodged on behalf of 18 plaintiffs.

Applicants' evidence 'inadmissible'

Behind Prince sat the legal team of several government ministries: police, health, trade and industry and constitutional development.

After the lawyers introduced themselves to the judges, lawyer for the government ministries Siphokazi Poswa-Lerotholi opened with an application to have the 2 572 pages filed by the applicants as evidence to support their application struck out.

"These do not constitute admissible evidence to a court of law," she said.

"The evidence is so weak that they cannot attach much weight thereto, and therefore they should be struck out."

She said the respondents were not expected to "trawl through this evidence" to determine what is relevant and what is not.

The hearing was previously postponed to give the State time to analyse a report on current cannabis policy in South Africa.

The Dagga Party is challenging the constitutionality of the Criminal Prohibition of Dagga Act (sections 4b and 5c), read with certain sections of Part III of Schedule 2 of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.

Those sections make it a crime to possess a drug, unless it is for a variety of medical reasons.

The Drugs and Trafficking Act defines what constitutes a drug.

Stalled career

The application got underway after the arrest of a number of people who openly use dagga for spiritual and health reasons, including Acton, who was arrested for possession.

Acton wants the prosecution against him stopped, pending the Constitutional Court's ruling on his application.

Prince told News24 he was also arrested four years ago for growing his own dagga crop for personal and health use.

He led a previous unsuccessful application to the Constitutional Court to challenge the laws after the Cape Law Society would not admit him because he had a student dagga possession record.

Prince said he refused to apologise for using dagga, and as a result, had lived a life of poverty, not able to practise his chosen profession.

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