Our Expert Witnesses

In order to offer South Africa a world class Trial of the Plant, we have called Cannabis expert witnesses, both local and international, to give evidence at the Pretoria High Court. The Trial of the Plant started on 31 July 2017 and continued for 13 court days until we ran out of time and the trial was postponed sine die (until further notice). Fields of Green for ALL is grateful for the experts’ time and for the financial support we have received in order to make this possible.

1. Dr Donald AbramsDonald I. Abrams, MD. is chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital and a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. He has an Integrative Oncology consultation practice at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. He received an A.B. in Molecular Biology from Brown University in 1972 and graduated from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 1977.

After completing an Internal Medicine residency at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco, he became a fellow in Hematology/Oncology at the Cancer Research Institute of the University of California, San Francisco in 1980. He was one the original clinician/investigators to recognize and define many early AIDS-related conditions. He has long been interested in clinical trials of complementary and alternative medicine interventions for HIV/AIDS and cancer, including evaluations of medicinal marijuana.

Those of you familiar with Cannabis Culture will know Dr Abrams from well-known documentariesThe Union: The Business Behind Getting High and the sequel, The Culture High. A YouTube search will yield dozens of talks, lectures and insightful pieces that demonstrate his profound knowledge and deep insight into, the Cannabis plant. Dr Abrams is one of the few clinicians who have had the opportunity to conduct extensive research into the plant with the permission of the US government. A strong proponent of whole-plant therapy, the good doctor encourages his patients to grow their own medicine. With a CV that is 30 pages long and no less than 183 peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals to date, Dr Abrams is first prize for the job! When we first approached him to come to South Africa he indicated that he does not usually participate in legal matters but conceded that the South African Constitutional challenge warranted a deviation from the norm.

Summary of Dr Abrams’ evidence and his Report on The Health Benefits of Cannabis and Cannibanoids

Watch Dr Abrams presentation at the Clinical Cannabis Convention


“The government cannot think logically about drugs.” – David Nutt

Famous for being fired by the UK government for saying that taking ecstasy is safer than riding a horse, David Nutt (http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/d.nutt) is a British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist specialising in the research of drugs that affect the brain and conditions such as addiction, anxiety and sleep.

He was, until 2009, a professor at the University of Bristol heading their Psychopharmacology Unit. Since then he has been the Edmond J. Safra chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London. Professor Nutt was a member of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, and President of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. His book “Drugs Without the Hot Air” won the Transmission Prize for Communicating Science in 2014.

Professor Nutt is our “Scale of Harms” expert and pivotal to our argument that keeping Cannabis illegal is irrational, given that both alcohol and tobacco are legal and cause far greater harm, including death, than the use of Cannabis.

Summary of Dr Nutt’s evidence

Watch Dr Nutt’s presentation at the Clinical Cannabis Convention

Dr Simon Howell is Senior Researcher at the Centre for Criminology in the faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town. He holds a doctorate in Political Philosophy with particular focus on illegal drugs and gangs.

Dr Howell has conducted research in various domains with a vast array of individuals, including teenage mothers, township youths, drug users, gangsters and police officials. He is an executive member of the Drugs Task Team in Khayalitsha and is thus perfectly placed to give evidence on the sociology of the harms of the prohibition of Cannabis, a major part of our argument.

Summary of Dr Howells evidence


3. Craig Paterson 350x350There are some subjects we need to cover in the High Court that is best left to local experts. There isn’t much point looking for an international expert to testify about South African Cannabis history. That is why we have asked Craig Paterson to give evidence about the history of Cannabis in Southern Africa at The Trial of the Plant.

Craig is an historian based at Rhodes University in Grahamstown where he is busy completing his PhD.

Since 2007 he has been researching the history of the Cannabis plant in Southern Africa and used some of that work as a part of his MA thesis called Prohibition and Resistance: A Socio-Political Exploration of the Changing Dynamics of Southern African Cannabis Complex, c.1850 – the present.

From extensive interviews with growers, smugglers and dealers, to digging through old government papers, Craig explains why the cannabis trade has taken the form that it has today, including why it was made illegal.

This thesis formed the backbone of the Dagga Couple’s founding affidavit when they sued the South African government in 2010.

Craig’s main work has been on Cannabis, but this is not his only area of interest. He is also slightly obsessed with the histories of khat and coffee in Africa and is also fascinated by the banana plant.

His research interests have been histories of domestic plants and animals, and histories of things that are illegal or unregulated. He also does consultancy work for various government departments, mainly around polices dealing with cultural and heritage issues.

Summary of Craig’s evidence

2. Tony Budden (217x300)Tony is a founding partner at Hemporium, South Africa’s premier hemp company, established in 1996. Tony is a globally recognized Industrial Cannabis expert having presented multiple keynote addresses on Industrial Cannabis cultivation, processing, marketing and futures at International symposiums on Cannabis, as well as consulting to companies around the globe.

Industrial hemp is fast reclaiming its position as the premier eco-resource due its large variety of uses, and Tony’s knowledge of the entire value chain is highly valued globally.

Hemporium built Africa’s first Hemp House out of hempcrete, which is a recognized World Design Capital 2014 project, and are instrumental in launching this revolutionary new construction material in Africa.

He is involved in South Africa’s Commercial Incubation Hemp Research Trials, growing industrial cannabis under license and moving towards a legitimate hemp industry so that South Africa can take advantage of all the jobs, houses and nutrition it would create.

Tony also promotes the use of Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in hemp, as a health supplement and medicine that can help treat a range of disorders including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Autism and Epilepsy.

He is passionate about raising environmental issue awareness, and hopes to play a part implementing in the changes necessary to correct the ecological balance of our planet.

Fields of Green for ALL is proud to have our very own international expert to give evidence around the very important Industrial Cannabis platform.

Summary of Tony’s evidence

Watch Tony Budden’s presentation at the Clinical Cannabis Convention

6-vladislav-lakcevicVladislav is an Analytical Strategy Development Professional who specialises in economic studies across Africa.

He achieved an MBA with distinction, as part of the requirements for which he authored a thesis entitled “Through the Smokescreen: Is there a Socio-Economic case for Cannabis Legalisation in South Africa?” Vladislav is qualified to comment on some of the most significant studies and developments to have emerged recently in Cannabis policy and economics.

Summary of Vladislav’s evidence

7-quintin-van-kerkenQuintin van Kerken is head of the Anti Drug Alliance South Africa and has worked in the field of substance use disorders for many years. Through his interest in policy formation and implementation he has conducted research into drug trends, usage patterns and other drug-related issues, specifically in respect of South Africa.

Quintin has been called as an expert specifically in regard to his two seminal papers addressing the cost of keeping Cannabis illegal. “At What Cost? The Futility of the War on Drugs in South Africa” (2013) and “At What Cost 2.0 – All Rands and No Sense” (2016), amongst others, give insight into the skewed economics of prohibition.

Summary of Quintin’s evidence


8-julian-stobbs The apex of the plaintiff’s argument is “Responsible Adult Use” and this is what they will be giving evidence about in court. Given the academic and industry credentials of our other witnesses, it is all too easy to dismiss the plaintiffs’ expertise as “anecdotal” but that is the point, people who actually use Cannabis regularly ARE the experts. Julian will be representing all users of this plant in expressing his human right to cognitive liberty and the freedom to alter his consciousness, without posing a threat to anyone else and free from persecution from the law. An essay which articulates this is:

Mr. X by Carl Sagan

Watch Julian Stobb’s presentation at the Clinical Cannabis Convention

9-myrtle-clarkeMyrtle and Julian have been immersed in the issue of “Responsible Adult Use” of Cannabis since their arrest in 2010. This learning curve has seen issues around the other three platforms – Health, Industrial and Traditional – take precedence over what remains: Our human right to alter our consciousness without harming anyone else. This is why it is very important that Myrtle and Julian take the stand to speak out about the harms of prohibition for ordinary citizens who do not have the “perfect excuse” to use this plant. We shouldn’t have to give a reason why. This plant enhances our lives and that has nothing to do with anyone else. “The Anatomy of Prohibition” by Andre Croucamp sums this up, the most sensible of all arguments around the issue of Cannabis: The Anatomy of Prohibition

Watch Myrtle Clarke’s presentation at the Clinical Cannabis Convention


Not all of the Cannabis experts that we engage with and learn from will be giving evidence at The Trial of the Plant, but there are many areas in which we seek guidance and expertise so we will be adding to this list of Consultant Experts as we approach the trial and beyond that into the realms of general policy strategy.

2. Dr Carl Hart

“I have to make sure that I don’t engage in conversations with people who don’t abide by the rules of evidence.” – Professor Carl Hart

Professor Hart is a Neuropsychopharmacologist at Columbia University, New York. He conducts research and teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in Neuroscience, Psychology and Pharmacology. Prof Hart is a world class scientist who has been awarded multiple multi-million dollar grants to study the complex interactions between recreational drugs and the neurobiological and environmental factors that mediate human behaviour and physiology.

In terms of Cannabis re-legalisation in South Africa, Fields of Green for ALL has always maintained the supreme importance of Responsible Adult Use as the umbrella platform for all Four Platforms of use. It is our Human Right to use this plant to balance our bodies and our minds. Prof Hart brings extensive personal and professional experience to the Pretoria High Court. He grew up in an impoverished neighbourhood in Miami, engaging in drug use and petty crime in his youth. He joined the US Air Force and this became his gateway to higher education. He is completely committed to his work with community groups and government officials to bring about effective drug policies and treatments.

Prof Hart is very well published and his website is an excellent way to get to know our esteemed guest before the Trail of the Plant. His book, High Price, says it all in the byline:

“I kept a gun in my car. I engaged in petty crime. I used and sold drugs. Today I am a professor at Columbia University who studies drug addiction and what I’ve discovered can be used to produce a more humane and effective criminal justice policy.”

Unfortunately we are unable to have Prof Hart attend The Trial of the Plant as recently he has been appointed Chair of his department and has become overwhelmed with administrative, research and writing responsibilities. We still consider Dr Hart to be one of our experts and will continue to engage with him on important matters.

5. Ras KorahRas Khora is a Consultant Herbalist and Diviner who has vast experience in the intricacies of protecting the rights of people and their use of plants. He sits on the KhoiSan Council of Elders and is a member of the Traditional Healers Interim Council. Brian hails from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, where he is a Priest of the RasTafari Nyahbinghi Order. He has been an active participant in parliamentary processes around the Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007.

It is clear by now that South Africa is uniquely placed to lead the way internationally in the re-legalisation of the Cannabis plant. One of the four platforms that is closest to our hearts is the Traditional, Cultural and Religious use of the plant. This is a broad platform with uniquely South African themes.

South Africa’s world famous Constitution was written in such a way that it enshrines our citizen’s right to freedom of cultural and religious practise. The Rastafari people remain the most persecuted religious group in our country.

There are over 300 000 Traditional Healers in South Africa. Traditional Healers’ use of the plant is blighted by so many grey areas in the law that our ancient plant medicine practices are under severe threat.

Traditionally, women use this plant to supplement their income in the rural areas where the men have left for the cities in search of work. Most rural women look after extended families, often including HIV/AIDS orphans. Women are constantly victimised as cultivators, traders and transporters of Cannabis. This plant has been an integral part of rural Southern African life for hundreds of years and it is interesting to note that there is no word for “prohibition” in any of South Africa’s official languages, except English.

Amidst all the talk of Cannabis legalisation across the globe we hear so much about Cannabis becoming a booming industry. We have a duty to ALL South Africans to protect their interests across the Cannabis legalisation spectrum. Ras Khora is an expert in exactly the area we need to ensure that ALL people who use this plant have their voices heard. Due to time restraints in court we will be combining Ras Khora’s evidence with that of our History expert, Craig Paterson.
Fields of Green for ALL!

Shaun Shelly is dedicated to the understanding of drug use and the development of effective drug policy and the rights of marginalised groups, including people who use drugs. His passion for the subject and compassion and respect for people comes across in his frequent academic and public talks and writing. He studied at the University of Stellenbosch Department of Psychiatry where he graduated cum laude with a Post Graduate Diploma in Addiction Care and is currently in the Addictions Division of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT, where he is an MPhil Candidate in Addictions Psychiatry.

Shaun also established South Africa’s first non-abstinence focused community program for people who use drugs in Cape Town. He is currently the Projects, policy, Advocacy and Human Rights” manager for TB/HIV Care Association. He has an appointment at the Department 

of Family Medicine at the University of Pretoria as part of the team implementing a Community Oriented Primary Care approach to address drug use in the City of Tshwane. Shaun is on the board of advisers to the Harm reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support network (HAMS) and Families for Sensible Drug Policy in the United States. He is also a member of the International Drug Policy Consortium strategy sub-committee.

In his role at TB/HIV Care he conceptualized and organized the first SA Drug Policy Week. Currently Shaun’s main area of research is on access to opioid substitution therapy and the implementation of low-threshold methadone and buprenorphine programs for low-resource communities through public-private partnerships.

He is a 2016 Open Society Foundations International Drug Policy Fellow and spent more than a decade doing embedded ethnographic research on drug use and the informal economy in Cape Town South Africa.

Watch Shaun Shelley at the 2017 Clinical Cannabis Convention

Described by Rolling Stone magazine as “the point man” for drug policy reform efforts and “the real drug czar,” Ethan Nadelmann is widely regarded as the outstanding proponent of drug policy reform both in the United States and abroad. He founded and directed (from 2000 to 2017) the Drug Policy Alliance.

Ethan was born in New York City and received his BA, JD, and PhD from Harvard, and a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics. He then taught politics and public affairs at Princeton University from 1987 to 1994, where his speaking and writings on drug policy attracted international attention.

Dr Nadelmann has authored two books on the internationalization of criminal law enforcement – Cops Across Borders and (with Peter Andreas) Policing The Globe – and his writings have appeared in most major media outlets in the U.S. as well as top academic journals (e.g. Science, International Organization), policy journals (Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Washington Quarterly, Public Interest) and political publications from the right (National Review) to the left (The Nation). Ethan’s TED Talk, delivered at TEDGlobal in Rio de Janeiro in October 2014, has more than 1.5 million views, with translations into 28 languages.

Watch Ethan Nadelmann at the 2017 Clinical Cannabis Convention

Dr Peyraube is Medical Doctor and specialist in the field of Drug Policy and Cannabis for Medicinal purposes. Throughout her career she has been involved in training, prevention, treatment and drug related harm reduction, including innovative theoretical and methodological developments with an emphasis on ethical issues, which earned her regional and international recognition. She has been advocating for drug policy reform in several countries.

In her home country, Uruguay, she has been ad hoc advisor to the National Board on Drugs (SND) in the reform of the public drug policy and the Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) of Uruguay, and actively participated in the drafting of the law that regulates Cannabis for all purposes.

Racquel is a member of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) and of the group of experts working on the public health recommendations for Cannabis regulation, coordinated by the O’Neill Institute of the Georgetown University, Washington DC, and the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA).

Dr Peyraube is the designer and academic coordinator of the 1st International Medical Cannabis Course for physicians and nurses endorsed by IACM, a protocol designed to be implemented in different contexts. Also, she is scientific advisor to foundations and companies working in the field of medical Cannabis who are interested in developing clinical trials and public education.

In May 2017 she founded the Uruguayan Society of Endocannabinology and is its founder president. Currently she is dedicated to Cannabis medicine practice, the development of protocols for clinical trials for research, medical cannabis education for health professionals, and consulting on Drug Policy Reform, particularly Cannabis legalization in different countries.

After receiving his medical degree from the University of Cape Town, Keith Scott embarked on a career as a general practitioner in both city and rural practices in South Africa the UK, New Zealand and Botswana.

His time in Botswana coincided with the crucial years from the start through to the peak of Southern Africa’s tragic HIV/AIDS pandemic. While working at the HIV/AIDS coalface he became extremely frustrated by the lack of effective government policies to contain the pandemic in Southern Africa. The poor response to the disease was due to the denial and inertia of the Botswana Government and the willful ignorance and obstructionism of its South African counterpart.

A few years ago he noted a strong similarity between the government’s misinformed approach to issues associated with illicit drug use and its damaging policies during the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Since then he has been motivating for drug law reform based on the large body of evidence that demonstrates quite clearly how current drug laws promote organised crime and cause enormous harm to drug users and to society as a whole.

He is active in challenging policy-making bodies such as the Central Drug Authority both directly, in academic publications and via the general media. As well as giving public talks on the need for the legal regulation of illicit drugs he meets regularly with senior politicians in order to convince them of the urgent need to overhaul both national and international drug laws.

Watch Dr Keith Scott at the 2017 Clinical Cannabis Convention

Witnesses for The State

Dr Shabir Banoo, B.Pharm (Rhodes), PhD (Pharmacology) (Rhodes), holds the position of Chief Technical Specialist for Pharmaceutical Programmes in Right to Care. He has previously held academic and research positions at the University of Witwatersrand and Rhodes University as well as positions in government, private and NGO sectors. Shabir is currently also a member of the Medicines Control Council and serves on several local and international advisory panels and committees focusing on access to medicines, pharmaceutical policy, and health products regulation.

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here

He is the Deputy Chairperson of the Central Drug Authority and lecturer at the Wits University Department of Pharmacology. Well known for frequently appearances in the media, Dr Bayever is a seasoned and vocal local drug policy participant.

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here.

Captain Jan Combrinck, a co-ordinator for the SA Police Service’s Gauteng drug enforcement programme

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here.

Dereleen James is the founder of the Yellow Ribbon Foundation and is a prominent anti-drug activist.

Deventhren Naicker is a colonel in the South African Police Service (SAPS), as well as an INTERPOL Regional Specialist on drugs and organised crime. He will be a factual witness during the trial.

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here.

James Oliver is an honorary member of South African Society of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and works at the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa North-West University.

Franco Visser is a lecturer Lecturer at UNISA and at the University of Pretoria

Witnesses for Doctors for Life

Dr Bertha Madras is a professor of psychobiology in the Department of Psychiatry and the chair of the Division of Neurochemistry at Harvard Medical School, Harvard University.

She served as Deputy Director of Demand Reduction in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) from 2006-2008 under the George W Bush administration.

She is also a psychobiologist at the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the Harvard affiliated McLean Hospital.

She has always been vehemently against the legalisation of cannabis for any reason as she does not regard the plant as medicine. She has testified in this regard for the US State as an addiction and brain imaging specialist on a number of occasions.

Read her Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here

He is the Executive Director of the Drug Free Schools Coalition and a special advisor to the Drug Free America Foundation. He has more than 40 years experience as a lawyer in the field of addiction law, represents several rehabilitation programs as well as consulting with government on drug and alcohol addiction issues.
He is a special advisor to the World Federation Against Drugs.

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here.

He is the Chairman of the Institute Of Global Drug policy.
He is recognized as an international authority on drug use and lectures nationally on drug policy issues. He has advised the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations and has advised or testified for numerous Congressional offices on drug-related issues.
He was recently recognized by the former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy with the ‘Director’s Award’ for his outstanding achievement on combating drug use (in the USA)

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here.

Professor Zudow is a retired clinical psychiatrist teaching at the University of Cape Town with a particular interest in Psychiatry and the Law. His interest and expertise in mental health law has gained him recognition internationally with the receipt of significant honours and awards. He has been called upon as a consultant in the review of Mental Health legislation and serves on numerous committees. His activities on committees of the World Psychiatric Association and as vice-president of the World Association of Medical Law have related to ethical issues in mental health. His specific interests relate to issues of research ethics in vulnerable populations. Prof Zabow also testified in the Prince case in 1999.

Read his Notice in terms of Rule 36 (9) (a) here.