- Gareth Prince, Jonathan David Rubin, Jeremy David Acton and Others v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and Others, unreported case no 8760/2013 dated 31 March 2017, Western Cape High Court (WCC)
This is the much-publicised case regarding an application by the three applicants supra, before a full bench of three judges of the High Court in Cape Town ("the court"), for a declaration that certain legislative provisions that prohibit the use, possession, purchase and cultivation for personal or communal consumption of cannabis (also referred to as "dagga" and/or "marijuana"), are invalid.
After hearing evidence, the court gave a unanimous, comprehensive and detailed judgment consisting of 66 pages - including a comparison between South Africa and the legislation of certain other foreign countries regarding the issue under discussion.
One thing that is of importance (and interest) to readers of this column is the court's reference to a report entitled "Balancing harms in cannabis policy for South Africa" which was drafted by Prof Mark Shaw and his colleagues at the Department of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town. In paragraphs  and  of the court's judgment, it remarks as follows:
“ Referring to the criminal regulation of cannabis in South Africa, Prof Shaw et al note that in 2014/2015, SAPS made 251 944 arrests which accounted for 15% of the total arrests in the country and which were pursuant to drug-related crime. Drug-related crime was responsible for more recorded charges than any other crime type beside a very broad category of ‘all theft not mentioned elsewhere’. On the basis of figures gleaned from SAPS reports and, given that cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance in South Africa, Prof Shaw et al submit that SAPS could free up significant resources if cannabis-related enforcement was not made a priority, was decriminalised or legalised. Examining the SAPS figures further, Prof Shaw et al submit that it would appear that the bulk of the annual arrests for drug-related crime represent the arrest of drug users or low levels suppliers ‘caught in the act’ rather than the result of any focused investigation. While conceding that cannabis offences in South Africa do not result in mass incarceration and therefore are not ‘filling prisons’, Prof Shaw et al suggest that the evidence implies that these arrests fill holding cells and, to a lesser extent, the roll of the courts and hence absorb a great deal of police resources and time…