How important is history in law? A brief interview with Craig Paterson

We caught up with Craig Paterson after his last day delivering expert testimony on the history of cannabis prohibition for the Trial of the Plant.

HA: On the testimony you delivered, is there anything you feel you’d like to talk about outside court now that you are done?

Craig: I think what I really like to get across is how important I think history is in the law. I said it on the stand, we live in a postcolonial country and one of our main political agendas at the moment is decolonisation, something that we spoke about so much the last few years.

The trouble is, we often don’t understand what decolonisation means, as a historian, I can’t say how we can decolonise perhaps, but I can at least give people an idea of what colonialism is. Because people often misunderstand what colonialism was. In this case, what I was showing was showing that cannabis laws were very heavily based on colonialism.

HA: How do you feel about the state, especially from a black state, their position in trying to deny that there’s any racism or history involved in cannabis prohibition?

I don’t think we can talk about a black state doing that. Their job as advocates is very clear. They discredit me as a witness; they look for parts of my argument that reinforce theirs and look for parts of my argument to attack that affects their argument. And they did that, they didn’t do it very effectively and I think they didn’t do it effectively because it’s so hard to deny that the colonial state was a racist state.

What I was saying wasn’t controversial at all. It is so straight forward. The same state that implemented apartheid, banned cannabis, based on the same foundation. That’s how the society was functioning at the time. They were doing their job discredit me and discredit that it was a racist move, but really they couldn’t do it because a racist society passes racist laws, it’s that simple.

HA; It is fact. Facts are written in history.

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