This week is potentially huge for South African cannabis legalisation. Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga Party, will be challenging the dagga laws in his 2nd round in the Western Cape High Court after his first round was postponed last December due to a ‘lack of evidence’. We caught up with Jeremy to find out more about these constitutional dagga hearings.
Firstly, how do you feel about this week’s trial?
Firstly, I am making all the case documents public. A link will be provided soon.
The state wants to strike my Dagga Files, which are my additional statements of rights and articles about aspects of Dagga from the record, because they claim that they do not come from an expert, and are not evidence’ and they say the references I make about dagga cannot be considered as admissible. I say that all my information is published knowledge in the public domain that can be confirmed from multiple references.
They also particularly want me to withdraw statements that the prohibition is the result of an anti-competitive conspiracy by real persons and corporations in history, even until today, and that the prohibition was the result of criminal activity from day one.
“The History of Standard Oil” by Ida M, Tarbell, points at the root of the prohibitions of both alcohol and Cannabis.
Then there is the same root found via research into the history of the pharmaceutical sector.
What other angles, besides the origin of prohibition, will you be arguing in your case?
The historical origins of the prohibition is a TINY part of the mission, but they want to silence me so I will use that as my opportunity to at least get the real story to the press.
I intend to say all the words that I can to force the judges to give recognition to “The Dagga Culture of South Africa/Africa” and recognise our rights to act culturally with our dagga. I will ask that Cannabis heritage and the genome heritage must be considered in terms of Justice, and I am asking that the future legislation rather be drafted via a judicial commission rather than parliamentary (corruption ) committees.
The public have no input into Parliamentary Committees and what you may be allowed to say, is always disregarded in the final draft. I learned this the hard way participating in the Climate Change Green Paper process, and (long ago) in trying to be heard by the Agricultural Committee.
How is your case related dagga couple’s case?
My case was assisted by looking at the Dagga Couple’s papers, and then adapting them to my situation. The Western Cape High Court process will inform the Dagga Couple’s Gauteng High Court process somehow, but I can’t predict how yet. I then also used these same papers for all the other plaintiffs.
It is just fate that made our case happen before the DC’s case.
What do you think will happen differently at this trial compared to last year’s?
I just need to insist with reasons that my files are admitted to the Concourt records. Meanwhile they are going to be public for people to also decide for themselves whether my information about Cannabis is true or not. Further files will be provided to add to proof of the truth of the original causes of the prohibition, if I have to, and if I may.
You have to know and point out the origins of bad laws to know what rights are impacted, and the extent of change that is mandated.
After the strike out is hopefully thrown out, I will speak. Hopefully our expert’s docs are all filed tomorrow.
It is important to know that the State did not substantiate their claims of harm, and they are required to prove harm. We don’t have to prove harmlessness.
They also attempt to use a pharmacist,the Head of the Medicines Control Council, Ms Joey Gouws, who thinks hempseed has no nutritional value and that Cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol, as their expert on the history of Cannabis in trying to silence me on the history.
Who are your expert witnesses and who is part of your legal team?
Our expert witnesses are: Tony Budden – Industrial Cannabis; Dr Robert Melamede – Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research; and Quintin van Kerken – Costs of Enforcement and Drug Policy.
The people doing this are myself and Ras Gareth Prince. There are also many other plaintiffs who joined us after being prosecuted and successfully applying for Stays of Prosecution like the Dagga couple did. We have had some quiet advice from a few members of the legal fraternity, but no one really got involved. Ras Gareth is confident in our underlying principles, but I feel we have to establish a new legal truth about the plant itself, and put that on record in a court.
It is not just about accepting a tiny concession, but about smashing this prohibition completely AND speaking about the future we want to see. I have done that in my Heads of Argument, and told the judges in my HOA that they are culpable for the consequences of decisions that affect future generations negatively.
What happens next?
The right to choose Cannabis as a medical solution for cancer or to prevent disease without prosecution is claimed.
Full equality in legislation with cigarette and alcohol users in relation to adult ‘recreational’ and social use is claimed.
Recognition that it’s our human right, and our cultural right, in accordance with the Bill of Rights, to consume and use Cannabis.
Obviously they will want to only consider Cannabis narrowly, and grant a tiny concession, but if they do, the prohibition WILL gradually unravel, and ultimately the powers behind prohibition will hopefully unravel too. We just have to write (and INSIST upon) a clear model for South Africa’s future in how we legalise for the PUBLIC benefit, and include everyone in production and the value adding of Cannabis in a more Earth-responsible economy.
How can the community support?
By attending on the days and showing the court that a positive, mobilised Dagga/Cannabis Culture exists in South Africa.
The hearings will take place at the Cape Town High Court, corner Keerom Street and Leeuwen Street from:
31 August – 1 September
To show support and attend on the days, check out the Facebook event for more details.