The South African law banning the smoking and cultivation of dagga is racist‚ unscientific and neither rational or based on good lawmaking.

This was the testimony of Rhodes University historian Craig Paterson. His master’s dissertation probed how colonial laws criminalising dagga use came to be. He is a witness in the trial brought by Myrtle Clarke and Jules Stobbs asking that the laws banning the sale of dagga be ruled unconstitutional. Paterson’s paper finds that cannabis, or dagga, was widely used before colonial times. He told the High Court in Pretoria it was easier to ban dagga officially in 1922 than alcohol, because at the time it was only used by Indian‚ coloured and black people. He said historical evidence showed that alcohol caused more social ills and crime, but was not banned because it was used by whites.

“Alcohol was the real issue for the government‚ so we have to ask why they chose to ban cannabis, not alcohol,” Paterson said. “The only rational conclusion I could come to is [that] white people didn’t smoke cannabis [at the time].” Paterson said one of the first reasons dagga use was halted was because it affected the quality of Indian labourers’ work in 19th-century Natal.

State advocate Bogosi Bokaba SC was aggressive in his cross-examination of Paterson and said the historical reasons for the law criminalising dagga were not relevant today. He said: “It is our view that the history that you specified around dagga use is irrelevant for the issues that are involved today. Do you agree?”

Paterson said it was for the court to decide whether the history behind the laws mattered. Bokaba asked Paterson whether he agreed with the medical symptoms‚ like red eyes‚ linked to the use of dagga.

“I am not sure why I am being asked these questions as a historian‚” Paterson replied.

The court case took seven years of preparation and will last about a month.

More info on the dagga-courtcase, the ‘Trial of the Plant’ via cannabis news network:

Source: August 15 – Herald Live

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