State 'allows you to smoke yourself to cancer', says Rastafarian activist

2017-11-07 21:10
Rastafarian Garreth Prince (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

Rastafarian Garreth Prince (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

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Johannesburg – Rastafarian activist Garreth Prince was on colourful display before the justices of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday as he argued for his right to smoke marijuana in public.

A barefoot Prince, dressed in a long red, yellow and green robe, said he just wanted the freedom to use marijuana without being victimised.

"The harm that the criminal justice system has to a cannabis smoker is worse than a joint can ever inflict," he argued during the state’s application for leave to appeal against the judgment and order of the Western Cape High Court.

Several members of the Rastafarian community were seen outside court dressed in their colourful regalia. Some members were seen smoking marijuana, while others sang and danced to drums.

Some of their placards read: "My body, my decision".

A metre away from the crowd were a few police officers who kept a close watch.

Arrests 

Prince told the justices that the Rastafarian community was "small and marginalised and this court should give effect to our plight".

He said the order made by the High Court, regarding the private use of dagga, allowed users to be victimised.

"It [the order] still allows the police to arrest us. The state arrests me because it says it cares about my health - I would hate to see what they would do if they hate me."

Earlier in 2017, the High Court ruled that the cultivation and private use of dagga should be legalised.

However, this applied only to home use.

Rastafarians outside the Constitutional Court where an application for leave to appeal against the Western Cape High Court ruling on dagga was heard. (Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

 


"The state allows you to drink yourself to death and smoke yourself to cancer. They should allow us to use dagga, equality demands it… it is not for government to determine what I eat or drink," Prince argued.

Prince said he did not see how growing plants could be harmful.

"Treat me the same as you treat alcohol drinkers or tobacco smokers," he said.

'Privacy' 

Meanwhile, Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton also argued that the order by the high court did not allow him to integrate with society. This meant he could not use the drug at his friend's home. He could also not travel with it, he said.

But Advocate Thomas Bokaba, for the state, argued at length before the justices that cannabis was dangerous and it affected the brain.

"The state is not able to predetermine who would be a responsible user of small dosage. The court only focused on privacy," he said.

He said the matter should be sent back to the high court for ventilation of issues other than privacy.

READ: ‘Privacy’ for dagga users

Bokaba also said that the high court decision was not in line with societal and Constitutional values. 

"It takes a village to raise a child. Cannabis use creates a burden on the health system. It is linked to crime and domestic violence [and] it also forms part of drug trafficking."

He said cannabis has been identified as dangerous and it increases risk of depression. 

Acton and Prince had argued their own case in the court in December 2016. 

They submitted that the laws prohibiting dagga use were unfair, discriminatory, outdated, and were applied disproportionately to black users.

'Dagga couple' 

In its ruling, the High Court found that the impugned provisions limited the right to privacy. 

It, therefore, ordered Parliament to remedy its two Acts within two years of the handing down of judgement. 

Any person charged under the relevant provision of the drug or medicine Act was permitted to use the High Court order as defence. 

Meanwhile, the "dagga couple" Myrtle Clarke and Julian Stobbs were also given leave to intervene in the case.

The pair has been in and out of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria attempting to secure the legalisation of dagga.

They had previously argued through their advocate, Don Mahon, that the law banning the adult use and sale of dagga was irrational because alcohol‚ which they claim is more harmful‚ has not been banned.

They wanted the court to instruct Parliament to make new laws to reflect this.

Judgement has been reserved in the appeal matter. 

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