Marijuana Law is 'Racist', South African Court Hears

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The Western Cape High Court is on Tuesday expected to hear the Dagga Party's application to have the prohibition of dagga declared unconstitutional.

The hearing was previously postponed to give the State time to analyse a report on current cannabis policy in South Africa.

The Dagga Party is challenging the constitutionality of the Criminal Prohibition of Dagga Act (sections 4b and 5c), read with certain sections of Part III of Schedule 2 of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.

Those sections make it a crime to possess a drug, unless it is for a variety of medical reasons.

The Drugs and Trafficking Act defines what constitutes a drug.

The application got underway after the arrest of a number of people who openly use dagga for spiritual and health reasons, including Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton, who was arrested for possession.

Acton wants the prosecution against him stopped, pending the Constitutional Court's ruling on his application.

This would be in line with a similar case in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, where prosecution was stopped pending an application to a high court on constitutional grounds.

The applicants believe that sections of the Drugs Act are unconstitutional, outdated, and the product of unscientific propaganda, and are now part of a defunct racist and political agenda.

The application is against the ministers of justice, social development, international relations, police, health, and trade and industry.

Harmful or not

During their last appearance, Rastafarian Garreth Prince, who lost a previous Constitutional Court attempt to legalise the herb, said they were challenging the constitutionality of the Drugs Act.

"This is not about whether drugs are harmful or not. It is about freedom of choice. We don't criminalise alcohol or tobacco," he said.

Prince's career as a lawyer ended when the Cape Law Society would not admit him because he was convicted of drug possession as a student.

Fourteen years ago, his lawyers argued in the Constitutional Court that, as a Rastafarian, he used dagga for spiritual and religious purposes.

He lost the case and became a legal adviser.

"It changed my life completely. I can only give people legal advice and help them to prepare for a case. I cannot go into court and represent them," he told News24 in August.
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