Dagga arrests: are they necessary AT ALL?

By |Published On: September 23rd, 2020|
Cannabis Can Help South Africa

The Police

The recent death of George Floyd in the United States at the hands of police caused a global uproar. In our own country the killers of Collins Khosa were suspended by the court. But is that enough? None of the officers that killed the 34 men at the Marikana massacre were ever suspended. We recently saw a flood of police brutality during lockdown and civil patience is at breaking point with protests all over the world. Policing was born out of apartheid’s minority control systems like night watches and slave patrols and curfew enforcement among black and indian labourers. Brutal control is at the heart of policing. It is a flawed system destined to bring out the violence in human nature through constant confrontation. In 2020 policing needs urgent and complete redesign from the ground up more than ever before.  

Do not think for one minute that Dagga arrests in South Africa are not race based. Talking Drugs report that “Within the Western Cape, ‘coloured men’ are almost 2.5 times more likely to be arrested on suspicion of drug possession or dealing than other racial groups.“ A bitter irony if you consider that there is nothing at all about Cannabis that science can prove that makes it justified to be the subject of policing at all. The banal policing of Dagga is only there to line the pockets of corrupt officers and to squeeze stats for the evil quota system, never to protect civil society that uses the plant regardless of the fantasy of unavailability created by the authorities through policies of prohibition. There is simply never a good reason for a Dagga arrest. Unless your Dagga is stolen, all other supply chain checks can and should be done by a government appointed Dagga expert OmBUDsman with a clipboard, not handcuffs.  

There is a massive dichotomy between what we as civil society experience at the hands of the police in our daily lives and what the government thinks policing Dagga is. This gap is what we are fighting to bridge. Government has to see this dire situation from the perspective of civil society. They have to see that unlawful and corrupt arrests are the norm and not just a few isolated incidents. They also have to understand that all Dagga arrests are completely pointless and unnecessary. They serve no purpose at all!  

Recent reports of police brutality shocked South Africans. According to The South African, Just 3.9% of all complaints against police brutality over the last five years went to a disciplinary and only 1.3% were criminally convicted. But daily abuse of the public by the SAPS is not new and officers are also almost never held accountable. Ipid is too closely linked to the SAPS to objectively investigate these cases, and just like the SAPS it only focuses on reaching performance targets while actually covering up police brutality in South Africa and not resolving individual matters in a justifiable way. This is a massive fail. IPID needs to be funded completely independently from the SAPS so that they can work through their massive backlog and properly solve existing cases. They are one of the first institutions we need to tackle in our fight to dissolve systemic racism. Just a few quick fixes in our policing system will NOT work. We need to rethink and rebuild from the ground up and include the institutions (that surround and support the police) in the repair procedure.  

On our the #StopTheCops CRM system, of the hundreds of cases of police corruption involving Dagga in South Africa, NO OFFICERS WERE EVER HELD ACCOUNTABLE. It is the norm that police do not have a warrant when entering private spaces without permission. It is the norm that they will destroy or confiscate (usually for resale) any plants or plant matter they find without explanation. It is the norm that they will lie to victims of arrest about their rights. Our legal system has many seemingly deliberate design flaws that allow this to happen, and we have years of case evidence on our system. A healthy country would not have overcrowded prisons for example. Our drug laws make us ill.

We need better police leadership and strict training to break the current widespread abusive behavior within the police. Officers that break the law need to be held responsible and they must suffer the consequences. Prosecutors have to ensure these offenders get convicted, but I’m cynical of that happening in a system where the corruption is woven all the way from the bottom to the top. Prosecutors protect lawyers that protect magistrates that protect the corrupt police on the ground, and together they tell the media exactly what lies to publish. The poison of greed and corrupt self enrichment has spread through the whole body of our broken legal system where we see human nature stripped bare to reveal it’s evil side.

The Media

One does not have to look far to see the integrated corruption between the media and the authorities. Every day we see opportunistic photos in the media of police arresting the bags-on-a-bakkie-brigade of the decentralised supply chain. These cops should in reality be ashamed of themselves. They are indirectly taking away family school fees. Those are suppliers transporting Dagga to distribution hubs. The very system that needs to be legitimised as part of our future economy. That’s what those bust reports are, not criminals but agricultural supply chains. It is in fact the SAPS taking the food of the table, perpetuating the cycle of poverty that plagues our already downtrodden nation.  

It’s simply lazy cookie cutter reporting that almost nobody reads, because they’re all the same and perceived as truth. We cannot progress to a future economy if the media keeps feeding the public this garbage. MSN News, Caxtons, EWN, 702, iol, Sowetan, News24, the list of publications that pump out these rubbish excuses for reporting goes on. The local publications f.e. Roodepoort Rekord tend to publish even bigger bust report kak. The reports are thoughtless and obviously handed down from the top to uninformed young staff that don’t know any better. I’m sure the tea room staff at these media outlets can write more informative and engaging Dagga reading than the actual incompetent journalists. We cannot continue to portray drugs as the problem when in reality prohibition is the problem.  

A recent story floating around numerous ‘news’ sites reports that a cartel is about to return to the courts. I contacted the family in question and found that most of the article is complete constructed nonsense. Why are they called a cartel if they just grow Cannabis and have never been convicted of racketeering and money laundering? The Judge Joseph Raulinga victory was in fact NOT linked to the Gareth Prince application, the Stay in prosecution was in fact achieved on the Dagga Couple case and they could not even spell Myrtle’s name right! These huge inaccuracies are just another example of how the media is using fiction to slander the Cannabis community, deceiving the public at every opportunity and hiding behind ‘staff and guest writers’ to do the dirty work.   

It is particularly disappointing that despite numerous attempts to contact Bongani Nkosi who wrote the sloppy piece I discuss above, we will take his non-reply as an indication that as a journalist, he does not care about the accuracy of his reporting. While we are extremely grateful for the continued support of media houses with integrity such as Daily Maverick, Groundup, The Citizen, The Star and Pretoria News, we will continue to call out bad reporting that makes a mockery of all of our hard work over the last ten years, and that reinforce the unconstitutional stigma that surrounds the TRADE in this plant. 

We cannot have both

We cannot have bust reports AND a healthy future Dagga economy. It does not make sense. The media (including the ever-so-silent-about-the-dagga TV news) need to support the truth and must also learn that there is in reality no reason or scientific evidence to support arresting anyone for Dagga!   

The South African government is sadly too fragmented with too many conflicting schools of negative thought when it comes to Dagga, and it shows in all the red tape and lack of action or direction when it comes to litigation. Lots of reading needs to be done, especially by the law makers! Dagga is a broad subject that will require all government departments (except the police that need to have nothing to do with Dagga) to work together in ubuntu. The state is sniffing at the Dagga carrot, but they don’t have a single plant in the ground. What is holding them back? Is it dogma? Fear of what? There are none so blind and poor as those that will not read (or trust science). Education is key.


South Africa’s economic solution with Dagga is different from the first world wherein the maximum economic benefit can be achieved by extensively using local existing supply chains that are decentralised such as in the goat and chocolate industries, and the way f.e. coffee is supplied also via a decentralised supply chain to Starbucks. We are destined to be the Cannabis centre of the world in terms of cultivation. We just need to legitimise the existing kasinomic Dagga industry (incorrectly called the black market by the media again). We CAN have Fields of Green for All AND satisfy the corporate and international markets. 


The media should be proud to publish educational content around Cannabis to help remove the stigma and fear caused by years of misinformation and drug propaganda. Arrests are simply a manifestation of  this fear and stigma. The time has come to tell the truth about Dagga for the betterment of our own country. Education is urgently needed for our lawmakers, police, and courts so that they can see the pointlessness of their actions. Our blog has some good examples of proper Dagga reporting. Again, education is key.


Civil society has to take the responsibility upon themselves to Know Their Rights. Don’t assume that you can believe the police, actually read and understand how to protect yourself. In case of arrest it is often your ONLY defense against the corrupt police. At least some officers have been convicted because the public have filmed them committing these crimes. This is WHY we are allowed to film the police. To make sure that they serve and protect in our greater interest and to have evidence of when they are not. After all they are our servants that we pay in taxes. We also have the responsibility to put pressure on Parliament (through organisations such as Fields Of Green For All) to provide a healthier legal system. Our taxes are currently being wasted on keeping these dysfunctional and corrupt out-of-date systems in place. Every South African tax payer has the right to know just how the state is squandering their earnings.  


In retrospect, we can clearly see how international prohibition in Cannabis first started taking shape because of advice from the South African Police force to the World Health Organisation in 1952. Never forget. This quote is from The Crimson Digest


A Zapiro cartoon from the Daily Maverick, June 2020

“The WHO started to take an interest in the subject in 1952, through its then so-called “Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction”. At its 3rd Meeting, the “question of justification of the use of cannabis preparations for medical purposes was discussed by the committee. It was of the opinion that cannabis preparations are practically obsolete. So far as it can see, there is no justification for the medical use of cannabis preparations.” However, no review of the literature was made and preparatory documents of the meeting mentioned in the minutes of the Meeting are minimal. The following year, WHO Experts were “pleased to note that the elimination of cannabis preparations had already begun by national action”. In 1954 the Committee delivered its final sentence, relying this time on no more information than “the feeling among the South African police of a relationship between cannabis addiction and crime” and “evidence that, as in other parts of the world, cannabis abuse is likely to be a forerunner of addiction to opiates.””  

We need to completely dismantle and rebuild the policing system and redesign public safety from the ground up. We must end the war on drugs, which is a war on people that narcotic policy experts say make police more violent and perpetuates community disinvestment because of it’s militarisation of domestic policing. Systemic racism needs to be programmed out of the design and full spectrum legal Dagga is a great first line of code. Maybe it is time to dismantle the word ‘police’ to rest also. It has become too tainted to ever survive in a positive light. It would mean admitting to failure. Changing the words to peace-officer and peace-force may be a good start. We need a community based peace-force with expanded duties to the traffic force also, like we see in other countries. More local control can be coming from the small business community for instance. The future lies in community-led public safety and together with an important Dagga omBUDsman, will inherently be the safer option in both a craft and corporate Dagga industry. This omBUDsman can serve as a knowledgable buffer between the SAPS and the South African Cannabis community. Any Cannabis issues will need to be cleared with the omBUDsman before any legal action can be taken against a Dagga grower or user. 

Prohibition also benefits diversion programs. Just a few days back we had a case where a young man was unlawfully arrested without a warrant for having 4 grams of dagga in his cubby hole. He called us from the diversion centre where he was about to pay for his piss test out of his own pocket while they use religion and the questionable 12 step program to make him feel guilty about his Dagga use. A lucrative business if there ever was one. And all the government officials that brought this man to this point for 4 grams know that. The policeman, the prosecutor, the magistrate, the lawyer (who didn’t know any better and let his client slip to rehab) and the diversion centre manager who needs a new BMW for christmas.  

So Dagga is clearly a social issue despite the government wasting taxes on trying to make it a criminal issue. It is simply impossible for an already strained justice system with overcrowded prisons to also manage the needless burden of pointlessly counting plants and prosecuting Dagga. A good insight into how Cannabis is abused in the global drug war fueled overpopulated prison system can be seen in the profoundly disturbing documentary, “13th”.   

As long as the millions of people (including the 300 000 estimated Cannabis farmers) that form the informal kasinomic market in South Africa has to live in fear of prosecution, we will be vigilant, because good people disobey bad laws. I’m sure there is not a single good policeman that wouldn’t be happy to get an increase and be instructed by government that they never have to arrest anybody for Cannabis ever again.   

Thank you to our FGA Affiliates who help to make our ongoing content creation possible!

Thank you to our FGA Affiliates who help to make our ongoing content creation possible!


About the Author: Charl Henning

I have worked at Fields of Green For All and Stop The Cops since 2014. Apart from day to day admin I also man our helpline and support victims of arrest.

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One Comment

  1. Noesjka September 24, 2020 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Couldn’t have said any of this better. It is so sad so very sad only.

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