Tags: South | African | Rastas | Want | Exemption | from | Marijuana

South African Rastas Want Exemption from Marijuana Law

Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM

Attorney Garreth Prince appealed to the Constitutional Court, roughly the equivalent of the supreme court, after being denied admission to the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope for two previous marijuana convictions.

Prince's attorney, John Abel, argued that the use of marijuana, called dagga in South Africa, was an essential part of the Rastafarian religion. In response to questions by the nine judges on how use of the drug would be controlled if the exemption were granted, Abel said a national council of Rastafarians could issue identity cards to members of the religion.

As judges heard opening arguments inside the court, three protesters backing Prince's bid were arrested outside for the illegal possession of marijuana. At least 50 supporters gathered outside the court, dancing, singing and smoking.

"It's part of our religion because we use it to mediate. It's a spiritual use of the marijuana," Jaquef Loff, secretary of the South African branch of the Universal Movement of Rastafari said of the importance of the case.

"Everywhere we are being punished for something innocent. It is innocent because it is a herb."

The government and police, who say giving a legal exemption to Rastafarians would violate international treaties and make domestic control of the drug more difficult, oppose the granting of a religious exemption to marijuana laws.

"I hope the Constitutional Court realizes that South Africa has acceded to a U.N. resolution listing dagga as an illicit drug," said Johnnie Strydom, a Southern African Development Community official.

Strydom also said marijuana use was increasing and continued to be concern for the entire region.

This is Prince's third legal attempt to secure an exemption from marijuana laws for Rastafarians and force the Cape Law Society to allow him to practice.

A high court ruled earlier that although the law did constitute an infringement on Prince's freedom of religion, the state had an interest in controlling the drug and the legalization of the drug would violate international treaties.

The Supreme Court of Appeals then upheld the high court ruling on the grounds that it did not have the authority to grant an exemption to a statutory law.

(C)

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Attorney Garreth Prince appealed to the Constitutional Court, roughly the equivalent of the supreme court, after being denied admission to the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope for two previous marijuana convictions. Prince's attorney, John Abel, argued that the use of...
South,African,Rastas,Want,Exemption,from,Marijuana,Law
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2001-00-22
Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM
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