‘Private use’ dagga cases withdrawn

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“So it turned out I wasn’t quite the big-shot gangster the police thought I was,” a man who is no longer facing a dagga charge said on Tuesday.
His case was one of two cases for private possession and use of dagga for personal use that had been withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority, the Port Elizabeth High Court heard on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old man, who asked not to be named, was arrested on March 14 2018 at his Beverley Grove home, with his vehicles, boat and equipment all confiscated by the state.
He said he used dagga for medicinal purposes and had never considered it to be illegal.
“I actually forgot that this case was on today [Tuesday].
“The state prosecutor phoned me a while ago and told me I could stop worrying.
“I just use dagga in quantities that are good for my body. I don’t need a lot.
“I always liked using it and it has always been a part of my life.”
The man said he had been astonished when he was arrested by police “guns blazing” at his home.
“It was a very weird experience for me. It was horribly blown out of proportion.
“They took all my vehicles. I had to Uber around and borrow my mom’s car for nine months,” he said.
“I spent a night in prison and had to pay R1,500 bail.
“The guy next to me in the cell paid R250 – and he killed his partner.”
State attorney Warren Myburgh, representing the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), told the court there was no need for an application to permanently stay the prosecution of the two cases as they had already been dropped by prosecutors.
The second case involves a woman hairdresser in her 30s, who also uses dagga for medicinal purposes. Deputy judgepresident Dirk van Zyl removed the cases from the roll, saying there was no need for further litigation.
In September, the Constitutional Court declared legislation outlawing the private use of dagga by adults as unconstitutional.
The government has been given two years to correct the laws.
According to a police memorandum, the judgment created a defence of “personal consumption” or cultivation of dagga for medicinal or religious purposes, provided that it is in small enough quantities.
It states that cases must be withdrawn where the evidence shows that the defence of private consumption will be successful, unless the accused has already pleaded – in which case the trial must go ahead.
In new cases, it says, prosecutors are advised to refuse to prosecute or to withdraw the matter on the first court appearance.
Attorney Ricky Stone, who specialises in dagga cases, said he believed the withdrawal of charges was starting in courts countrywide.
Myrtle Clark, from dagga advocacy organisation Fields of Green, said it was hearing of dozens of cases being withdrawn countrywide...

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