With so much happening on the international and local legalisation fronts, we sat down Jules and Myrtle of The Dagga Couple, burned a few spliffs and chatted to find out what’s up with their court case and how they’re feeling about the still winding road ahead.
Why are you fighting for legalisation?
Jules – We were arrested and charged with possession and dealing in dagga, so we decided to challenge the law rather than just become another drug arrest statistic.
How prepared do you feel about the court case?
Myrtle – We still have loads of work that we can now do. We were ready for the trail three months ago, but now we can lock it off even more. We can go really into depth with the subject. The postponement has given us the opportunity to make our case even stronger.
What part of the preparation has caused you the most sleepless nights?
Jules – It’s not really the preparation that causes me sleepless nights. You can go down the research rabbit hole as much as you like, it goes on and on how much information you could put into your defense. Part of the problem is because of the wealth of information that we’re about to introduce into the court, the court has said there isn’t sufficient time to deal with the volumes of information and that they therefore gave us the new court date.
What does get to me though is when I check my inbox everyday, because that’s a part of our lives now, and every time we hear about another bust I take it so personally. Prohibition is messing with peoples’ lives! Criminal records for nothing and the expense, upheaval and stigma that’s part of everything that goes with being bust. That’s the hardest part of the job for me now.
Myrtle – In a word… fundraising. Where are on earth are we going to get all the money from? We have to keep on being positive that it is going to come.
What angle are you guys taking with your court case?
Jules – There’s four platforms to argue all the various uses of the plant [medicine and health, recreational use, industrial use and traditional, religious and cultural use] . So we’re going to go for the jugular and call it Responsible Adult Use that encompasses absolutely everything.
Myrtle – The purpose of the court case is to find us innocent as individuals, we therefore have to prove that it’s okay make recreational cannabis legal. To allow responsible adult use and everything that comes with that.
Who are your confirmed expert witness so far?
Myrtle – Dr Carl Hart (Columbia University USA) , Prof David Nutt (Neuropsychopharmacologist UK), Prof Donald Abrams (University of California San Francisco School of Medicine USA), Craig Patterson (Historian RSA), Tony Budden (Hemp Expert RSA), Brian Damonse aka Ras-Kora (Cape Bush Doctors RSA), Quinton van Kerken (Addiction Expert RSA) and Simon Howell (Senior researcher Centre of Criminology in the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town RSA).
David Nutt may have to be a Skype testimony depending on how that works out. We’d been planning to get a bunch more, but our attorneys (Schlinders Attorneys) said we’ve already covered all of the basis quite nicely. So that’s a bit of a relief. All of our fundraising money is being saved up for these expert witnesses and they don’t fly coach [economy].
Can we expect to see Doctors For Life testifying at the trial?
Jules – I think we will. They are the government spokespeople on the harms of cannabis. For sure they will get arm loads of documents that will say “maybe”, “kind off”, “could be”, “correlation”, “meta-analysis” or “cannabis causing schizophrenia”. We will be armed to the teeth with all of the other documents that say it doesn’t and then the judge will thrash it out in his own head at the end. We still have to go through the motions of all of this.
Myrtle – DFL will be there big time with their legal team. They’re in the rehab game, so their livelihoods are now at stake.
Are you expecting to face any old school propaganda from Doctors For Life?
Myrtle – I don’t think we can expect any misinformation, but maybe some ill informed views. We only know one of their expert witnesses, but they are bound to also bring in some overseas witnesses though. Although there can’t be that many experts around the world who are anti cannabis. Which is a good thing for us.
Jules – David Bayever from Wits who is a bullet of a prohibitionist. In the last few years he has mentioned the words decriminalisation, he has mentioned the fact that people shouldn’t go to jail for their abuse, but any use of drugs still equals abuse to him… there is no middle ground.
What do you think will be the deciding factor for the judge?
Myrtle – Eventually, the eleven judges at the very top, but our upcoming trial at the High Court is where all of the evidence and witnesses will be led on the constitutionality of the matter. The deciding thing is going to be alcohol. The fact that it’s legal and cannabis isn’t.
Jules – The bottom line is that we are asking the court to make their ruling on the basis that it is our human right to consume cannabis or not.
Are you confident that the judicial system will play fair?
Jules – I am mostly confident about that. After this year’s decision at a constitutional level regarding the president, it’s been a great leveling of the playing fields. We believe that the judiciary in South Africa is impartial and independent and they don’t cow to the government, unlike the SABC at the moment. It’s a good thing Hlaudi’s not in charge of the Constitutional Court.
Worst case scenario, what happens if the trial doesn’t go your way?
Myrtle – We go back to square one at the Krugersdorp Magistrates Court.
Jules – The dopes already missing and there’s no forensics, they’re lost and misplaced. It’s all moot, but technically speaking if the Supreme Court rejects our case and denies us our chance in front of the Constitutional Court; we’ll personally probably still get off.
When is the trial of the plant set for and how long will it last?
Myrtle – It starts on the 31st of July 2017 and it ends on the 25th of August, it’s nineteen court days.
Jules – It’s the longest court case that the Gauteng Judge President has ever booked in. Nineteen days of history in the making.
What Happens to The Dagga Couple after the final court win?
Jules – You know, it would be nice to take a break from speaking about weed. There will be a bit of an anti-climatic honeymoon phase, then it will all be normal. As far as I’m concerned, by that time I’m nearly 60 and I won’t want to do anything much.
Myrtle – We’re gonna sit back on a deck chair in the sun and watch the youngsters get on with it.