Cape Town - Government will present arguments in an application over the decriminalisation of cannabis when it continues in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
Rastafarian Garreth Prince and Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton submitted arguments, when the landmark case started on Tuesday, on behalf of themselves and 18 other plaintiffs who face prosecution and a criminal record for dagga-related charges.
They want the court to declare some sections 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, unconstitutional.
The ministries of health, police, trade and industry, and justice and constitutional development, and the director of public prosecutions would present their take on the controversial subject when the court resumed.
Judges Vincent Saldanha, Dennis Davis, and Nolwazi Boqwana are hearing the case.
Prince and Acton argued that it was unfair and unconstitutional to deny them the right to use cannabis. They presented more than 4000 pages of evidence to back up their claims that it was not harmful and held massive health and economic benefits.
“We are saying that cannabis should be treated like alcohol and cigarettes,” submitted Prince.
Prince was not allowed to register as a lawyer after he was convicted of a dagga-related offence as a student. He refused to apologise for it. He lost a Constitutional Court application to have dagga declared legal for religious use and had struggled along as a community legal advisor for the past 18 years.
Acton had at least four dagga-related charges pending. He submitted that there was a long history of racism, discrimination and racial profiling regarding dagga law in South Africa. Blacks were often searched without a warrant.
Friend of the court, Ron Paschke, said some medical evidence showed a high incidence of people who use cannabis diagnosed with schizophrenia. He however said the jury was still out on whether the schizophrenia was there first and the cannabis use came later to deal with it, or vice versa.
He said evidence showed that it was the least addictive substance next to alcohol and tobacco, and, contrary to the evidence that it caused violent criminal conduct, it in fact reduced violence.