Dagga Party Explains The New Dagga Law
Jeremy Acton’s run ins with the law are enough to make the hardest convict give him a high five.
by Mooketsi Nthite Posted: 2017/09/07
Jeremy Acton is a victim of severe police brutality, literally stripped down and assaulted by cops, he’s been in and out of jail several times, while the media and government have had a field day ridiculing him. But what terrible acts did this eccentric, middle aged man from Western Cape do to deserve so much pain & humiliation? Murder, terrorism, armed robberies?
Nope, he simply wants weed smokers to get stoned in peace.
Jeremy Acton is the founder of the Dagga Party, which he started in 2009 to push for the legalization of dagga in South Africa and expunging criminal records of people convicted for dagga use or possession. In a country where there is no differentiation between marijuana & crack cocaine, you can only imagine want a daunting journey this has been for the Dagga Party, especially with setbacks like being unable to compete in the 2014 National Elections because the party couldn’t raise the 200k required to join the political rat race. Read more about that here Jeremy Acton v New World Order.
Just when it seemed the struggle was lost, Dagga Party had a great victory when on the morning of March 31st 2017, the Western Cape High Court announced its decision to allow for the possession, cultivation and private use of marijuana at home
So is this a sign that weed will be fully decriminalized in South Africa soon, should we blow our vuvuzela’s in celebration? Jeremy Acton breaks down what all this legal jargon means for local stoners.
Can you please elaborate what this law means for Dagga Users?
The court recognised the Section 14 right of adults to privacy, and the right to privately cultivate and consume Cannabis in the privacy of their dwelling and on property of the user. This means that a most valuable and beneficial medicine was placed back into the hands of the people. Until the final law is made, people can use the statement in court that it was for private adult use at home, and the magistrate’s court is obliged to accept that as a defence until the legislation is finalised.
I can confirm that this judgement relieves a great amount of stress, and concern about being arrested and enables the discreet cultivation of Cannabis for private use. It is a very historical and positive judgement when we consider the 90 plus years of prohibition, and it is a first step in the right direction. However, the judgement did not alleviate the need for prosecution of all those carrying cannabis outside their home, and this status quo is a continuance of the old abuse.
Why did it take so long to get here? (legalization for private use)
Court processes and writing legal argument takes time, and much energy out of one's life, and the state was happy to let it go slowly. We are satisfied with the process so far, but there is still a long way to go, especially if we must rely on an unwilling Parliament to change laws that it has enforced for about 90 years, ever since the British Crown controlled South Africa, and through the Apartheid era and through this post-apartheid government's continued prohibition.
How do you feel about the decision to partially legalize though?
The judgement was a concession, and did not in any way come close to JUSTICE. The bench ignored our papers after the state applied to have our entire Summons Action struck from the record, on the grounds that it was 'vexatious' and 'of prejudice to the state', and then proceeded to write a thesis on our right to private use of cannabis in our homes. It also did not find any fact about the plant which recognised the medical benefits or industrial potential of the plant, despite substantial scientific information and experts' affidavits placed before the court.
We sued on a great number of legal points in the Bill of Rights, and we felt the Cannabis plant and its scientifically proven benefits should have been judged on facts and every clause upon which we based our claim to the plant should have been judged. We also sued for the right to economic use of the cannabis resource but this was totally ignored. We sued for equality with tobacco and alcohol users outright to use Cannabis in society and to carry Cannabis like a person can carry cigarettes or alcohol, and this was also ignored.
We sued for the right to cultural use of Cannabis in groups and this was also ignored. We therefore feel the judgement did not attend to the matters brought before it, and that it is therefore incomplete, despite the historical, and very welcome concession made by the judgement.
Parliament has at least 24 months to change the laws, what happens to people arrested within that period?
The 24 months only starts after the final Concourt decision, (which shall be heard on 7 November 2017 in the Constitutional Court). People caught cultivating and consuming Cannabis at home must have charges withdrawn by the magistrates' courts pending final publication of new legislation for Cannabis. Those caught outside their homes have a problem and are advised to not be at risk.
What about people who have dagga records already, will they be expunged after the laws get changed?
In our summons of the state we insisted that all criminal records must be retroactively expunged and all existing Dagga prisoners must be released, but the court left that out of the judgement as it believed that that is a matter for Parliament to attend to. We shall continue to insist that the wiping of criminal records and the release of dagga prisoners is essential to the restoration of Justice.
How has Dagga Party been helping people arrested for possession?
After eventually stopping my prosecution by application to the High court, I then had standard form papers to share with others, and we edited them to suit the different provincial details and we have successfully used them in Western Province, Eastern Province, KZN. Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northwest Province and Gauteng. People should remain discreet, and preferably use their Cannabis at home, but anyone who is arrested can contact me for assistance. We also provide telephonic backup for people being arrested to help them just get through to the courts, and what to say to the court on the first appearance, and to urge them to NOT pay admission of guilt fines.
When did Dagga Party start fighting for decriminalization of weed?
We started by distributing our first brochures in 2009, and then in late 2010 we registered with the IEC in the Langeberg municipality, WC, and took part in our first local election process in May 2011. We saw a great amount of support but it did not translate into votes as our support base was not registered to vote. We realised that we had to build a political movement from scratch.
As a result of the political actions I got a lot of attention from the local police, and was arrested 4 times in quick succession by the Montagu SAP. My first arrest was on 3 January 2011 and I was arrested a further 3 times leading up to those May elections, including being arrested twice on one day.
How much business and social support does DP have nationally and globally?
When I first started out I was a lone smoker sitting on a barren farm in the Montagu district, but since then I have linked up with cannabis activists all around the world, and in South Africa, the network has grown very well. The main problem we face is that we are a political movement that works for the legalisation of a prohibited substance, and this means the outreach has to be cautious to ensure we do not get infiltrated by the prohibitionists.
We are a revolutionary movement working against a malicious state/corporate collusion that instigates and enforces this prohibition for their profits and control, and therefore we are by necessity somewhat underground. We have zero support from any big business but we have received support from international and local Cannabis activists. We hope the necessary financial support for Elections 2019 will materialise to ensure that the Dagga Party is on the ballot.
What would you say to people who say legalizing weed is a bad idea cos it’s a gateway drug?
The gateway 'theory' actually originates from the 1950's from lies and unsubstantiated claims made in commissions seeking to criminalise Cannabis, and this propaganda persists till today. If dagga really was a gateway drug to heroin, there would be 20 million plus heroin addicts in South Africa, but there aren't. All heroin users medicate between fixes with Cannabis (against tremors and withdrawal) but only a few Cannabis users go on to other hardcore substances. Ultimately, these addictions to harder substances are the result of personal choices and social pressures, and these addicts are not 'driven' to use other substances by Cannabis.
MANY Cannabis users will testify that Cannabis is the gateway OUT of addiction to other substances, and I have heard many testimonies how Cannabis got people off alcohol, heroin, prescription Ritalin, cocaine, meth (tik), over-the-counter drugs, and even tobacco. I personally stopped using alcohol after using Cannabis and I do not partake of any synthetic drug substances, though I have great respect for the naturally occurring 'power plants' and fungi used by cultures for purposes of shamanism and spiritual development.
I personally use Cannabis daily and Psylocibin (magic mushrooms) in retreat on a quarterly basis, and I believe this is my right, and such use is of major benefit to my physical and mental health and should not be prosecuted.
Some countries like Portugal have successfully decriminalised all illicit drugs, would this also work in SA?
Yes, we have to go from this fascist and damaging criminological approach to minimising 'harms caused by drugs' (as the state calls it) to a human rights-based social-medical model in the treatment of addiction.
So what’s the next step after this victory?
The next mission is:
- Building the Dagga Party support base,
- Ensuring everyone gets registered to vote, and
- Find QUALITY candidates for Parliament from among our supporters, and
- Do the admin to ensure our candidates are accepted by the IEC, and
- Then to start marketing the policy standpoints of the Dagga Party to the general public.
A Dagga Party majority in Parliament is going to be necessary to ensure that we actually have a government that is qualified to legalise Cannabis for the people not the corporations.
- For more information about the policy standpoints of the Dagga Party please go to the Dagga Party website.