Best of 2012 | The Dagga Coupleby Max Barashenkov / 28.12.2012
Originally published 24 February 2012
A few months ago, we stumbled upon a peculiar duo, Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, who have taken upon themselves a rather Sisyphean quest of legalizing marijuana in South Africa. At first, we dismissed them as middle-aged stoners, but the two have managed to get their case into the High Court and are gathering momentum. Perhaps local ganja fiends finally have worthy champions? We figured it would be a good idea to ask the duo, flying the colours of ‘The First Ever Legal Challenge For The Re-Legalization Of Cannabis In South Africa’, a few questions. Not because we’re avid tea-heads ourselves, gods forbid, but just to see what the deal is.
Mahala: We all love lighting up joints or sucking down bongs, but a conscious struggle for the legalization of marijuana is quite an undertaking. How do you expect to rally the masses behind this cause?
The Dagga Couple: One step at a time. We have been building our campaign for 18 months now and we are learning how it’s done. We will try every means possible to get the word out there and drum up support. Anyone prepared to sponsor a billboard campaign?
Or do you think that this can be achieved by only a few dedicated people, such as yourself?
We certainly have a few dedicated people to thank for getting us this far. We are not only doing this for ourselves and this is stated very clearly in our court papers so we would like to involve as many people as we can. Currently we have over 40 ‘reps’ around the country. These wonderful people are spreading the word and helping to ‘rally the masses’. It is very important to remember that the courts can only affect a certain shift. Civil action has to do the rest.
What are your credentials, so to say? What makes you the spokespeople for the tea-heads?
We are the reluctant activists. A situation developed around a ‘bust’ at our home. The way we were looked down on and treated by the police, the way we could have just bribed our way through the system, the amount of crazy disinformation that the authorities have been lead to believe about the plant. We took a long hard look at the big picture. We figured we owe it to the plant. We’ve smoked for 50 years between us. We’ve smoked all around the world. The plant in all its forms and with all its benefits has been around us all our adult lives. Yet it’s been persecuted all our adult lives. Enemies of the state, sneaking around having a spliff round the back.
We are also well placed to tackle this very public issue as we are middle-aged, tax paying citizens who have always made valid contributions to society. We are not the ‘stoners’ popular culture would have you believe.
You have a case in the Pretoria High Court. Can you tell us a little about it and its progress, or lack of there of.
This is a very slow process! The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted us leave to test the constitutionality of our claims. In order to do this, we have charged seven government departmentswith enacting irrational laws which are outdated and founded on racist principles. These laws are an infringement of our basic human rights in terms of the Constitution. The Government has since replied to our ‘charges’, countering most of them. Now that we know where they’re coming from (it was quite predictable, really), we can proceed to plan our strategy. We have one more set of papers to hand in next week and then we can apply for a High Court Date,which will hopefully be towards the end of this year. The High Court will then rule on the constitutionality of the matter.
What is the current legal status of marijuana, in comparison to, say, cocaine?
In SA, Dagga is right up there at the top alongside heroin. Dangerous, dependence producing and of no medicinal use.Because cocaine is seen to have medicinal properties, it’s in a lesser category. Did we mention the word irrational? We have a 600-page catalogue of all the treatable conditions dagga can help with. All of them, peer-reviewed empirical studies. No medicinal value?
An article recently appeared in Rooi Rose magazine that severely misrepresented you and your cause. Do you often face this kind of prejudice and misinformation?
We weren’t so much misrepresented. We’re just sick of the blatant untruths, cut and pastes from the 80’s, and fear-mongering. People are fearful enough with what’s going on around them and around the world. Stop making people scared of dagga when they don’t need to be. The other aspect was the light in which the article was written. Always taking the subject lightly, as if it’s all a silly frivolous skylark the stoners get up to.
Where does our weed currently come from?
South Africa’s weed comes from all over SA. The 2nd highest smoking country in the world. Legendry strains of world-renowned cannabis. Mountain strains, coastal strains, hydro grow op’s in sheds in suburbia, a couple of plants in a pot on the balcony. All over. We guess, generally speaking, Transkei weed makes its way to Cape Town, Swazi weed ends up on the Highveld and Durban coast. Lesotho weed spreads through KZN and Gauteng and there are thousands of different strains of seeds all over the townships, wasteland, roadsides, flower beds, all over the country.
What would legalization change? Would jobs be created? What would be the positive commercial gains for the government and civil society?
Remember that all parts of the plant and all uses are illegal – buds for smoking, extracts for medicine and hemp for industrial applications. Legalization would allow dagga smokers to smoke and, by becoming a legitimate commodity, most of this revenue would leave the black market and enter the mainstream. Even more so than this, we intend to pave the way for legitimate medical use and there is another revenue stream. People will be able to self-medicate with dagga and this will ease some burdens in the health sector. The industrial applications of hemp are numerous – fibre, fuel, food, shelter – it is potentially a huge resource. Legalization will also ease the burden on our law enforcement budget. Jobs go with all of the above.
Why do you think legalization is even possible in South Africa, a country plagued by so many issues (which some would say are more important), when it has been a major struggle in much more liberal societies around the world?
We would say that South Africa is a very liberal society with a very good track record in dealing with major human rights’ issues. Gay marriage, the death penalty, abortion, religious freedom and so on. The legalization of dagga is an issue that needs to be put to bed so that other issues can be dealt with.
Do you prefer joints, bongs or vaporizers?
Jules likes his glass pipe and Myrtle likes her spliffs!
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