Rastafarians welcome dagga ruling

THERE were mixed views following the high court judgment of decriminalisation of the use of cannabis (dagga) in private.

On Tuesday, September 18, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo delivered a judgment which ruled that the ban on the use of dagga in private spaces was a violation of privacy rights however the buying and selling of the substance, and its use by minors, is still illegal.

The Rastafarian community of Kokstad, who wanted the use of dagga to be decriminalised, welcomed the ruling but called for dagga to be able to be used and sold in public like “apples” and “bananas”.

Rasaztion Mahlasela, Sifiso Mhlathi and Lwandile Mzamo, from the Rastafarian community, said they feared that even though the use of dagga was decriminalised by Justice Zondo, police would still be arresting them when transporting it.

“Dagga is part of our lives and we cannot live without it because it brings us close to ‘Jah’ (God). When we go to church, we want to carry ganja [dagga] without being intimidated by police,” Mahlasela told the Fever.

The substance is called “wisdom weed” or “the holy herb” and many Rastafarians believe that it was created like other plants so it must not be treated as a drug.

On February 6, Kokstad Rastafarians picketed outside the Kokstad Magistrate’s Court following the arrest of a 35-year-old Rastafarian man who was caught allegedly with dagga hidden between the dreadlocks on his head.

In March they handed over a petition to Kokstad Police Station complaining of being victimised and targeted in their communities because of their culture and appearance. They also wanted the use of dagga to be decriminalised and they wanted to be allowed to practice their religion by being able to use dagga in public.

“Rasta people are not criminals, and are against crime and the use of drugs. Dagga makes us healthy and protects us from getting diseases,” said Mzamo.

Police minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, said SAPS have not yet studied the judgment and will not comment further on the matter.

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