Cannabis activists came together today for a constitutional challenge that could lead to marijuana legalization in South Africa.
In March, the Western Cape High Court heard a case which argued that being arrested for growing personal-use marijuana at home was against South Africans’ right to privacy.
Gareth Prince and Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga (Marijuana) Party, presented their case on March 31 and the regional court agreed. The justice system gave the government of South Africa 24 months to amend the Drug Trafficking Act to allow for the decision.
The government was not pleased with the ruling and appealed promptly. Now, nearly eight months later, the South African Constitutional Court heard the case today.
Prince and Acton were joined in court by Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, famously known as the “Dagga Couple.” Stobbs and Clarke have their own legal battle concurrently happening in a different regional court, where they too have challenged the right to grow and consume cannabis.
“[This is] above the Supreme court, you can’t get any higher up the ladder,” said Stobbs in an interview with Marijuana.com. “We’ve circumvented all of that, this is so big it is now the definitive argument.”
Stobbs added that because of the ruling in March, the government is being forced to defend why it feels prohibition is the best way to handle cannabis. “[The government] has to prove that there is no better way. They want to prohibit the use and sale of weed and [to them] locking people in cages is the best way to do it.”
The procedure in the court allowed 20 minutes for each plaintiff to present their case to 11 constitutional judges. Both the government and the marijuana activists had several presenters.
“It has to be done in one sitting. There’s no two days in the constitutional court, sometimes it’s cut-and-dry and other times it goes way into the night,” said Stobbs. “By the end of the first quarter of next year, the smart money’s on the end of March, they will make their constitutional decision.”
If the court sides with the previous judge, it does not mean the government will suddenly be forced enact a legal regime where cannabis is sold in retail outlets. In fact, they won’t be told what to do at all.
“The judges cannot dictate how they should do it, they just tell the state that the law is unconstitutional and [the government] needs to figure out something that isn’t,” said Stobbs. “We’re not going in there to [demand] cannabis clubs, coffee shops, and dispensaries, we’re just trying to make sure that they find it unconstitutional.”