4 arrested after Hawks bust alleged dagga 'lab'

Part of a dagga nursery in Somerset West. (Supplied)
Part of a dagga nursery in Somerset West. (Supplied)

Four people were arrested after the discovery of an alleged dagga nursery in Somerset West, the Hawks said on Thursday.

"Numerous cannabis plants and hydroponic equipment, worth approximately R100 000 were seized," said Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase.

The swoop, carried out along with the South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau, in Drakenstein Road netted the four people aged between 39 and 64. They are expected to appear in the Strand Magistrate's Court on Friday.

Hydroponics is a soil-less system of growing plants that is used by some supermarket suppliers, and also by amateur gardeners who would like to grow crops such as strawberries and tomatoes out of season.

It involves the use of a water reservoir and a pump, with water circulating through the system. Nutrients are added to the water according to the growth stage of the plant.

The pictures of the raid supplied by police showed the nursery with a grow tent and special lighting.

The Colorado Pot Guide website explained that hydroponic systems could include switching out soil for gravel or sand and include drip irrigation.

Two-year deadline for Parliament

However, it is still "100% illegal" to grow dagga crops in South Africa, said Richard Davies, managing director of Verve Dynamics, which produces botanical extracts.

The company was granted a licence to grow dagga for medicinal purposes in Lesotho, and is also in negotiations for a licence with the government of Zimbabwe, for a similar venture, said Davies.

In the meantime, judgment is still awaited from the Constitutional Court regarding a decision handed down by the Western Cape High Court relating to private dagga use.

In March 2017, Judges Dennis Davis, Nolwazi Boqwana and Vincent Saldanha ruled that it was an infringement of the constitutional right to privacy to ban the use of dagga by adults at home.

Dagga was not legalised, but they gave Parliament two years to correct laws that relate to dagga so that the constitutional right to privacy for an adult at home is not infringed upon.

They also ordered that the right to privacy may be used as a defence by those charged with possession, cultivation or use of dagga in the privacy of their own home. 

It was swiftly appealed by the State and was heard at the Constitutional Court in November 2017. An official said on Thursday that the judgment had not been handed down yet.

Also read: Green light for new dagga law could take a while, Parliament warns

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