Julian Stobbs & Myrtle Clarke
What is it about the Cannabis plant that made two ordinary citizens fight their government in a court of law for the right to use it?
In 2010, Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke were subjected to the full force of a South African police service (SAPS) raid at their home in Johannesburg. After a 5 hour ordeal at the hands of a heavy handed and indoctrinated drug squad, they were charged with possession with intent to deal in drugs.
Who were we harming by using Cannabis (or Dagga as it’s colloquially known) in the privacy of our own home? Where was the victim of this crime? And why were we looking at 7-10 years in a South African jail for having a quantity of a dried plant matter in the attic?
After weeks of deliberation we decided to ask these very questions in a court of law and presented an affidavit to the High Court. We essentially sued 7 government departments for enacting an unlawful law. The presiding Judge agreed with our sentiments and so started our journey to the highest court in the republic, the Constitutional Court.
We weren’t drug policy experts, nor sociologists or even au fait with the laws surrounding the prohibition of Cannabis. Nevertheless, our combined 50 years of cannabis use and the myriad effects the plant has had on our lives to date, spurred us along on a journey that has changed our lives forever.
From being artists and creatives in the SA television and film industry to Directors of South Africa’s only Cannabis legalisation Non Profit Company has been a lot to adjust to. So has being thrust into the limelight of South Africa’s media – the same media that dubbed us the ‘Dagga Couple’ for better or for worse.
Our NPC, Fields Of Green For ALL, is now the backbone of our challenge and our legitimacy. No longer are we just two middle class, middle aged stoners (or Daggakops as our detractors would describe us) – we now have security clearance at the United Nations and have taken our legal challenge to the most powerful corridors of drug policy in the world.
Our challenge is essentially a human rights issue. It’s a sovereignty issue. It’s a cognitive liberty issue.
Never before in SA law had such a challenge being ventilated in a court of law so we, along with our legal team, constructed what we billed ‘The Trial Of The Plant’ in 2017 – the definitive, televised trial of the Cannabis plant. The pros and cons of cannabis use and its effects live streamed into South African homes and the world for everyone to finally make their own minds up about the subject.
Is cannabis so dangerous that our use of it should result in 7 years in prison?
For the first time (that we know of), the concept of cognitive liberty was introduced into SA law. Because we aren’t experts, or academics, or qualified to have an opinion about the science of the plant or the mechanics of drug policy in a court of law – the only thing we are experts on is our state of mind, and the state of mind that cannabis puts us in. That particular effect the plant has on each of us under specific conditions at specific times.
And anyway, it’s our bodies, so how come we don’t have any choice in the matter? How come there are such broadly punitive sanctions for us watching a movie in our pyjamas, in our own sanctuary, sitting on our own couch, getting high from our home grown weed?
If Cannabis is so dangerous, why on earth were we using it and millions of other humans indulging in it if the effects were so negative?
And why were we going to such elaborate and costly lengths to prove our point in a court of law for the last 7 years? The fact that Cannabis is illegal is a good reason not to use it, but what was the reason for it to be illegal in the first place?
What is it about us changing our consciousness with a plant that makes it so offensive for the law makers?