Dagga law challenge postponed in High Court

2016-08-31 15:57

Cape Town - The Dagga Party's application to have the prohibition of dagga declared unconstitutional was postponed in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

"We are challenging the constitutionality of the Drugs Act," said Rastafarian Garreth Prince, who lost a previous Constitutional Court attempt at legalising the herb.

"This is not about whether drugs are harmful or not. It is about freedom of choice," said Prince.

"We don't criminalise alcohol or tobacco," he added.

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

The parties will return to court on December 13.

Life completely changed

Prince's career as a lawyer was destroyed when the Cape Law Society would not admit him because he had a student conviction for possession of drugs.

Fourteen years ago, his lawyers argued in the Constitutional Court that, as a Rastafarian, he used dagga for spiritual and religious purposes.

He lost the case and has since gone on to become a legal advisor. 

"It changed my life completely. I can only give people legal advice and help them to prepare for a case. I cannot go into court and represent them," he said, his dreadlocks hanging onto his navy blue suit.

The Dagga Party is challenging the constitutionality of the Criminal Prohibition of Dagga Act (sections 4(b) and 5(c), 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.

Drug Act outdated

The Drugs and Trafficking Act defines what constitutes a drug.

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

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

This would be in line with a similar case in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, where prosecution was stopped pending an application to a High Court on constitutional grounds.

The applicants believe that sections of the Drugs Act are unconstitutional, outdated and the product of unscientific propaganda, and are now part of a defunct racist and political agenda.

The application is against the ministers of justice, social development, international relations, police, health, and trade and industry.

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