Trial of the Plant – Day 13 – Final day for 2017

Day 13 of the Trial of the Plant started with more history lessons as Craig Paterson took the stand again to lay down testimony on the historical accounts of cannabis prohibition in South Africa. The state continued to show their best legal representation when arb questions were asked:

“That this is how you frame your understanding and defect?” State

“Which defect?” Craig

“Cannabis being prohibited” State

Craig corrected the state in using the word culture and transformed the discussion to ‘society’.

“The apartheid regime took away the use of cannabis……the basis was racist”

It was the 1948 Colonial regime that took away the use of cannabis, and that in itself was racist. Craig explained that the use of cannabis by white colonialist was rare, but per-colonial by white people use was more prevalent.

“In areas where there was less grown, there was more trade of cannabis” Craig

The state asked Craig “do you want to say racism is applicable?” to which Craig responded: “The law was a racist law based on social Darwinism” which “relied on racist and imperialist notions….if the reasoning behind the law, and was the same, before 1992, as it was in 1922 or 1982, or 1937, then yes, I would agree with that statement.”

Adv Qofa made Craig read out the chapter one and two synopsis of his Thesis (Download here):

Chapter One describes the southern African cannabis trade at the time of European settlement at the Cape in 1652, and examines the changes wrought by this settlement on the region’s cannabis trade throughout the late-seventeenth, eighteenth and early-nineteenth Centuries. Including a discussion on the pre-colonial use, cultivation and trade of cannabis, this chapter shows both how the European settlers incorporated themselves into the economic environment of cannabis trading, and how they altered this environment after establishing political power in the region.


Chapter Two addresses the period circa 1850 to 1970, and investigates reasons for the illegality of cannabis. It deals with the growing ‘moral panic’ surrounding the use of drugs, from the 1850s until the prohibition of cannabis in 1922, and also deals with the request made by the Union of South Africa to have international legislation passed against cannabis in 1923.

Qofa went onto read herself:

This period in South Africa history (c.1850 – c.1925) is marked by the rise of the segregationist state and the entrenchment of racist laws. I situate the prohibition of cannabis in this greater climate of moral panic over the threat posed by so-called ‘primitive’ types to the politically dominant colonists. It is argued that the prohibition of cannabis in South Africa was an almost inadvertent result of attempts to scientifically justify colonial oppression. That South Africa became the first country to request that international restrictions be placed on cannabis makes Chapter Two vital in understanding the plant’s international prohibition.

Qofa: “Was South Africa the first country to commit war on cannabis?”

Craig explained that it was only the 1928 act where cannabis restrictions started coming into play and that during the moral panic, South Africa reached out internationally to push forward asking for the international prohibition of cannabis.

The 1912 Hague International Opium Convention, some 11 years before South Africa sent their letter for international prohibition, was raised by the state before the court. They draw up the convention with the purpose to deal with cannabis says Qofa, but Craig says that it was mainly for opium and cocaine.

Judge Ranchod intervened Qofa asking where she is reading from. “I am paraphrasing,” she said. Judge Ranchod inferred that the witness just mentioned that cannabis is not a feature in the Opium convention. Further to this, Qofa’s notes on paraphrasing were not even submitted along with the 4,300 pages of evidence recently submitted and have not been delivered to Judge Ranchod nor the witness or plaintiffs.

Craig was made to read out an excerpt from this thesis (pg 6)

One example of such anomalous reporting can be found in the case of two seizures that occurred in Grahamstown, in November 2008 and on the 27 th of August 2009. Calculated from figures in newspaper reports following the August 2009 seizure, it seems that Grahamstown police determine the ‘street value’ of cannabis at 70c per gram. This is a figure which, in my experience, is extremely low and only possible if the quality of the seized cannabis was pitiful on both occasions. This would be an unlikely coincidence, and so although it was reported that 1.2 million Rand’s worth of cannabis was seized, I would suggest that the actual figure was no less than double that.” “What experience are you referring to?“ – State

“I would go out, and look for smugglers, dealers, and growers and get to understand how the trade works.” Craig

What motivated Craig to do his thesis is that Cannabis is a polarized issued and that he feels it needs to be depolarized and the polarization needs to be broken down. The more he read into this, the more it became about the plant.

Qofa made Craig state that he’s got no scientific knowledge, to which he replied as a historian, he needs to have a broad outlook over many disciplines.

His understanding is that how the law plays out on the ground is a social issue.

“You do not have any knowledge of the law for example 1994 up to now, you do not know any law that deals with cannabis to today? “ State

Adv Qofa read out “It is argued, therefore, that the apartheid system and cannabis prohibition rest on the same theoretical foundation.” “It could be said that the reasons informing the foundation of apartheid law and the prohibition of cannabis was almost identical.”

She asked Craig if both these share a “same theoretical foundation”?

“In each case, it was a body of laws passed to ensure that the ‘non-white’ population could be made of use to the ‘white’ population, while trying to minimise the threat that the former posed to the ‘white’ ruling class.”

“Can you explain that?” State

“…..As explained before with social Darwinism, the contact of racial groups poses a threat, just like apartheid, other racial groups encounter the white racial groups was posed as a threat. …” Craig

“While apartheid laws sought to keep specific kinds of people in specific social environments, minimizing contact between groups, the laws against cannabis (and other ‘vices’ such as alcohol) served to protect the ‘white’ population in circumstances where such interaction was unavoidable.”

Research conducted since the writing of the thesis reinforces the ideas about this thesis, Craig says that he feels more strongly about his work now than before. The court should not be persuaded on the basis that Craig is not 100% confident in his own thesis as he earlier asked to omit Chapter 3&4 earlier which was based on oral research.

“Are you aware of the law that is applicable to this case?” State

The state went on to suggest that history does not play a role and that history does not belong in the court. Craig was asked to come to the court and present the history of the processes of prohibition, and that it’s up to the court to do what they want with that information.

“Do you have any interest whether it should be legal or not? “ State

“No, not really, in my opinion, people should not go to jail for it, and that it’s up to the court to decide what to do with laws.”

Craig’s opinion is that cannabis prohibition was based on racist grounds and that he does not necessarily support legalization. “…If laws were made illegal on racist grounds, then it should be changed….” he says to conclude on the matter.

Read an interview with Craig here.

Watch the day’s proceedings here.

The FOGFA legal team has asked for postponement with costs reserved, till next year due to the volumes of evidence brought forward by DFL and the week left will not be sufficient, in all reality, to work through the rest of expert testimony that was a delay from the start. The court date will be set for 2018.

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