Jules wrote this blog six years ago in 2014 about an arrest where he tried to help the victim navigate through this ordeal. Sadly, even in 2020, not much has changed in how police treat the Cannabis community.
The DC inbox has regular impassioned pleas from people who’ve just had a visit from the South African Police Service in some way or another. Weekends are the worst. There is little we can do to get people out of jail at the weekend. The investigating officer went home and dagga users usually sit for three days.
Requests for help with busts are less frequent during the week and, if handled correctly, there is a chance of police bail for personal possession. This, as a lot of you can attest to, rarely happens. You sit; It’s normally overnight in a police cell and a visit to the magistrate in the morning. Sometimes we get a copy of our ‘Know your Rights’ booklet to your smart phone on the inside. It’s designed to give you a bit of peace of mind during an indescribably stressful time.
Rarely do we get physically involved – there are just too many small time dagga arrests going on.
We don’t have time to deal with each and every case, but of course we advise where we are able.
Tuesday 18th February 2014 was a bit different.
I’d like to describe what happened during the subsequent 48 hours in the life a cannabis activist in South Africa.
Got a call from a woman. She says she knows me and describes a woman I apparently know too. I couldn’t place either of them and was thinking ‘how did this woman get my number’?
Moments later I get an SMS from an old friend – “Help Buddy. **** and I have been arrested and we’re at ***** police station. Got no clothes or ideas. This is for real old mate. Hurry.”
Now I know who’s been busted.
19:00: Arrive at the police station in the Johannesburg area fully intent on getting a midweek police bail for my two friends. Police what? Stony silence….in fact total apathy. The investigating officer had left the building. In one hour I got nowhere but was told they would appear in court the following morning. I was also informed that they were to be moved to overnight cells at another police station. A constable was kind enough to let me through to the cells with warm clothes and food. Four people in the male cells, three of them in for dagga.
20:30: Organise a lawyer to appear for them in Randburg the following day.
23:52: Whilst asleep I get an sms from the ‘prisoner’, “9.5g. Back of van again. Headed ******* direction it appears…thanks for biscuits (my favourite)!”
Realise I have the message. Alert the Lawyer not to be at Randburg, but go to ******* Court. He’d already set off so the prospect of him being delayed in morning traffic didn’t help. All of this is happening because a couple have a jam jar of dagga in their car. Way to go.
08:32: Get another SMS. “Found attorney from across the road. (supplies name and number) She knows the locals and reckons she’ll get us out on bail today. Please advise if not to chat to her. Have my phone on for limited time”.
09:30: No show at court. Go to ********* police station. Get a complete blank stare from everyone in the building. No police bail, but my friends are there but NO visitors. Why no court appearance? Nobody knows who the investigating officer is, and anyway, he’s from another police station, not this one. DC lawyer gets nowhere at the highest level.
10:00: Ring the Bail Lawyer. She is literally directly across the road and right there in one minute. There are lawyers and there are touts. This one was a tout and my neck hairs bristled.
‘Right, let’s play this and see what happens’ I think to myself.
To say that we didn’t get off to a good start with the negotiations is an understatement. She epitomised everything that is wrong with the system and it was very to difficult for me to look at her without visualising a bottom feeding scum bag. But I tried.
Immediately the police have an ear for her. Looks like R500 bail each. Off I go to get the grand. Get back and it’s now a grand each. Hmmm…..off I go again to an autobank at the garage.
When I return I try to revisit my friend. I need to know how much he’s good for in bail money. I’m shelling out here and I can ill afford these kind of figures. The place is swarming with trainees now, all scrubbed clean with new uniforms. I get through one security gate but meet a complete stonewall from a grizzly looking old sergeant at the cells. No way Jose.
I get a lead on the next floor. As I entered the corridor, the tout is talking to a senior plain clothes police officer I’d met earlier as part of the aforementioned stone wall. They look awfully familiar with each other. Shivers down the spine. They don’t notice me.
Some time later outside there’s talk of complications and the bail is now R3000 each. I refuse to be dragged in to the scam any longer and call the tout’s bluff on the blatant bribery in front of me. The prohibition system had been laid bare before me like a small localised tumour in a huge national cancer of corruption and human rights violations.
I felt ill.
In the tout’s office the negotiations dissolve with lots of shifty eyes and dodgy mannerisms. I’m red like a beetroot with anger.
Knowing my friends were about to sit another night for my actions I prepare to drive off. I cause a huge scene in the street with the dodgy bail shark and then go and have it out with the Warrant Officer who is in cahoots with her. He denies everything and it all starts getting ugly. I’ve exposed them and they know it.
12.:30 I have to get out of there. There are even more pressing things to deal with very soon. MP Dr Mario Ambrosini was to speak at day 2 of South Africa’s Opening Of Parliament. What made this event vital to the DC was that he was about to introduce a Bill demanding the legalisation of medical cannabis. Big news indeed. I drove with a terribly heavy heart trying to shake off the prohibition malaise and get into the swing of my social media desk and SA news of global importance.
13:00: Get a call from eNCA News – can I be live on the TV this evening?…. Wow. Take a deep breath. ‘Of course I’ll be there’
At this rate I quickly figure there would be no way that I could get back to those cells with food before at least 8pm. Myrtle is up to her tonsils during all of this. She’s earning a living, keeping the boat afloat installing a game show set in studio until late. I ring the lady who originally rang me and updated her on events. I ask her to take some supplies to the prisoners, which thankfully she’s able to do.
13.26: Still driving. Get an sms ‘Pls call now..not sure what happened swaar…’. This is the point where I have to tell my friends they are in for another night because I refused to pay the bail bribe. Of course he understood. I knew he would. He’s an old friend and knows my views on the subject. He saved himself 6 grand too. If you’ve been smoking in SA for 20 years, chances are you’ve been locked up for it. Take it on the chin. Just sit. Do your time, say NOTHING and keep the touts out.
Right. Where were we?
14:30: Dr. Mario GR Oriani-Ambrosini MP (IFP) tells a packed parliament about his inoperable lung cancer and how he is controlling the dis-ease with cannabis oil. He introduces the ‘Medical Innovation Bill’ demanding the opening of at least two medical facilities to study the use of cannabis for terminally ill patients in SA. The news reverberated around the world instantly. Job done.
As I drove to eNCA against the traffic that evening I reflected on the events of the day. The polarity in my feelings of pride and disgust and the tears for both of them. Dr Ambosinis speech was an historical event of huge importance for South Africans suffering with cancers and other serious dis-ease both physically and mentally. ‘The legalisation of cannabis as medicine in South Africa’. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
I wondered how long it will take to filter down to the cesspool at the bottom of the ladder where you spend two days of your life being treated like a dog. How can it be hailed as a lifesaver for the sick, but an illegal scourge for the healthy?
19:30: eNCA were very generous with their time for a prime time ‘Dagga Debate’ and asked adult questions after an edited insert of Dr Ambrosini. As I calmly answered the questions posed I was thinking to myself – ‘If only they could have seen me going mal at a bail tout in the street earlier in the day. I also thought of how time passes insanely slowly on your second night in jail.
Receive an sms ‘********* court it is’.
Everything was in place for them to get out of court hopefully with bail and a postponement. I get on with all the things I’d meant to do for the last couple of days. By 11am I still hadn’t heard anything. Neither had his brother. Has he been given bail and is in cells waiting for someone to arrive and pay it? What to do?
13:04: Receive an sms ‘Out. Just like that’
It turns out they were both released from cells and then pushed out of a gate into the street in ************. No court. No magistrate. No Bail. No investigating officer. No answers.
Is prohibition working for you, the taxpayer, at this moment in time?
I’m glad I went through the experience of downtown prohibition central with all it’s corruption, arrogance, ignorance and anger. It generates more resolve to do something about it. The world over, cannabis users are the softest targets and the easiest to prey on. We know you’d do anything to get your friend out on bail but step back for a minute and just mull over what you’re doing. You’re fueling a cancer. Your money is it’s sugar and with it, it grows. Do not give in to the fear and pay bribes.
I’m also proud to have witnessed the courageous stand Dr Ambrosini made and the DC thank him from the bottom of our hearts for the opportunities his actions have unleashed for the cannabis plant in South Africa.
Here at DC Central we’ve spent the weekend ruminating over the week’s events. As the medical properties of the plant are acknowledged at the highest levels we can only hope a discussion is held at the same level to address the futility of jailing cannabis users for a victimless ‘crime’. It bloats an insidious system that SA’s beleaguered justice system can neither support nor afford.
Stop arresting peaceful, law abiding, self medicating stoners. We’ve known since time began that this wondrous herb is medicine. Leave us alone.
All use is medical use. It is your human right to use the Dagga plant. From Dr Ambrosini’s cancer in parliament to the cancer in our society that is police corruption, let’s heal the nation by shouting even louder for freedom from prohibition for ALL South Africans, whether you are sick or not.
Jules Stobbs. Johannesburg.