World summit leaves dagga couple stoked
Joburg pair emboldened by meeting civil society groups from around the world fighting the same cause
Meeting likeminded people – fighting to have the laws governing drug use changed – has made them realise they are not alone.
And with this reassurance, the so-called Johannesburg dagga couple, Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, continue to live in hope that one day they will win the legal fight to force parliament to change laws prohibiting the use and cultivation of dagga. To this end they have also released their own draft guidelines on dagga regulation.
In March the pair attended the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, as part of civil society challenging the “war on drugs”.
The conference discussed global drug policy and still called for the criminalisation of drug use, even as civil society attended in their thousands to ask for global drug reform.Stobbs and Clarke are involved in two court cases. One is asking the Pretoria High Court to find the laws that criminalise dagga smoking and agriculture to be ruled unconstitutional and sent back to parliament.
They were also admitted as friends of the court in a Constitutional Court case that must decide whether to uphold or rescind a 2017 Western Cape High Court ruling that the ban on the private use of dagga is unconstitutional.
At the UN conference, where thousands fought for freer drug laws, Clarke said meeting civil society organisations from all over world made them realise: “We are not alone. There are a lot of people fighting for legalising our bigger human rights.”
Clarke handed out her draft legal policy on legalising dagga in South Africa to members of civil society. “Africa is a black hole as far as drug policy goes,” she said.
Cannabis must not be regulated in any manner that is harsher than harmful substances, tobacco and alcohol, are, the policy argues.In her policy she is asking for the burden of regulation on dagga use to be proportionate to the risks that are expected to result from using the substance.
She says in her draft that South Africa needs its own laws: “The answer is simple: a uniquely South African regulation model.”
No activist has yet published what they wanted to write down before policy change came down, she says.
“Suddenly they are about to legalise dagga in Canada and there is a bill on the table. But before that there has never been a document about that what [drug users] want.”
Canada is in the process of legalising marijuana use, with a member of parliament saying this week it will be completed in months.Clarke is firm in her belief that the South African laws will change.
The case in the Pretoria High Court has been postponed without a date set.
But Clarke said: “I am optimistic we will finalise the case before courts.”
Asked about the fact that South Africa is different to American states and European countries where dagga use in some has been legalised, Clarke said: “What part of our anti-drug policy is working in Eldorado Park?”
Legalisation of cannabis is the gateway to safer drug policy, said Stobbs.
“Prohibition is a system we cannot have if the human race is to advance.”