Printer friendly version

ID: 1420

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Drug Policy Reform and Advocacy; Punitive Laws and Law Enforcement

Presenting author: Myrtle Clarke

Presenting author biography:

Harm reduction can only start when we get rid of the handcuffs. Since being arrested on Cannabis charges Myrtle Clarke, together with her partner, has worked on presenting Cannabis law reform in South Africa as the sensible first step in broader drug policy reform. This is a human rights issue.

JoinTheQueue: Cannabis is the gateway to evidence-based Drug Policy in South Africa.

Myrtle Clarke, Julian Stobbs

We are reducing the harms of Cannabis prohibition in South Africa as a precursor to more evidence based drug policies in general.
JoinTheQueue is a service offered to South African Citizens who are arrested on Cannabis charges. The charges against the accused are put on hold, thus avoiding unnecessary & expensive prosecutions.
South Africa is a major Cannabis producing and consuming nation with a famously liberal constitution. By asserting our rights we are drawing attention to the irrationality of current Cannabis laws and inviting fellow accused to “JoinTheQueue” and become active citizens instead of feeding police corruption or being incarcerated.
In 2011 7 South African government departments were sued on charges of enacting unlawful laws. “The Trial of the Plant” is due to start at the end of July 2017. The accused in this case obtained a Stay in Prosecution in order to bring about their constitutional challenge.
The South African Constitution allows for equality before the law for all its citizens. JoinTheQueue takes advantage of this equality and has achieved 36 High Court Orders staying the prosecution of the accused. Court statistics indicate that there are approximately 1000 arrests a day for Cannabis in South Africa. The vast majority are for low level possession by young people under the age of 30.
Drug Policy debates are gaining momentum in South Africa our project can be used as a model for challenging irrational drug laws in court. South Africa is going through political turmoil at present but we have a strong judiciary. Let us use this to our advantage to fast track more sensible drug policies.