Our Heroes of Cannabis:


According to the Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition for a hero, they can be defined as a person admired for their achievements and noble qualities. A person who shows great courage in their pursuit to change the norm.

There can be no truer description than this when speaking about this edition of Heroes of Cannabis – Myrtle Clarke, remaining half of the famous Dagga Couple.

Myrtle was born in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape to a father who was a minister at a Methodist Church. Due to her father’s ministerial duties, they moved around a lot between small towns all over South Africa. It was at this time though (during the height of apartheid) that Myrtle got her first taste into activism to protest against the prejudices of the time. She eventually matriculated in KZN and moved to JHB as soon as she could to start living life on her own and distance herself from her religious upbringing.

She then studied for 4 years obtaining a Fine Arts degree and then attained a diploma in education and started teaching art at (the now notorious) Parktown Boys’ High for 4 years. Myrtle never felt comfortable with a career in a structured school system so the minute she had paid off her student loans, voted in the 1994 elections and sold up everything she had (including a flat in Yeoville) she went to New York to experience the world.

Myrtle spent a year in New York working as a household manager for a very wealthy family just outside Manhattan. She then went to the UK for 2 years and decided on a career change where she trained as a chef before returning back to South Africa where she taught at the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine for a few years before she opened a restaurant (The Saucery) at Rustlers Valley in the Free State. It was at this time that she met and fell in love with Jules, moved back to JHB and has been living at The Jazzfarm for the past 17 years.

While in the Free State, Myrtle continued her passion for food styling and always kept her contacts in the movie industry. Jules was already in the Film & TV industry and Myrtle joined him when she returned to Joburg, working together on all sorts of productions before they were arrested in 2010.

The account of that evening would send shivers down anyone’s spine. In the early hours of a Thursday morning, after a long and hard day’s work filming, Jules and Myrtle were warm in bed when they were suddenly startled by their Jack Russel who leapt up, barking ferociously. Loud voices and footsteps could be heard outside their home. They thought they were being robbed. When Jules reached the door dressed in just his underwear, he found that someone was trying to break the door down. He opened the door and there were 6 guns pointed in his face. It was the police. They shouted, “Do you have any drugs in this house!”, and Jules replied, “Yes, I have cannabis in the house” and he let them in before they could break down the security gate.

What followed was a horrifying 5-hour ordeal. Myrtle was strip searched 3 times. They were separated and not allowed to put any warm clothes on. In all this time the police were screaming about a drug lab, over and over again, shouting at them to show them where it was. The police took Jules’ glasses away from him, he had a gun lodged into his cheek for 2 hours and completely ransacked the house.

Eventually it started getting light out and the police marched Jules and Myrtle around the property still shouting and screaming about a drug lab until it became plainly obvious to the police that there was no drug lab. The police hauled them over to the police cells with virtually nothing to go on but a bit of cannabis.

Jules and Myrtle considered themselves lucky that it was the middle of the week when things are quieter than on a Saturday. Myrtle confesses though that no one should be subjected to the horrors of a police holding cell. A pile of blankets that have never been washed in one corner and on the other corner a hole to use the toilet. By the end of that day, they were charged with possession of cannabis and released on R1000 police bail. A rather dodgy bail lawyer cost them R6000 that they had to pay over with no receipt of the services provided. He advised them that they would be facing a potential 7-10 year imprisonment on the charges of possession and dealing in Dagga.

This experience changed everything in Jules and Myrtle’s lives and they had a very difficult choice to make (what is now known as the famous “3 choices”); accept their punishment, pay a bribe or challenge the law. They decided on the latter as they felt that this was a gross violation of their privacy and, ultimately, a Human Rights violation. Jules and Myrtle embarked on a difficult and costly journey starting with a 44-page affidavit in which they claimed their Human Right to use the Cannabis plant in the privacy of their own home. They charged 7 government departments with enacting unlawful laws. They employed a top advocate to sign off on their affidavit and handed it into the Pretoria High Court. In June 2011 they were successful in being granted a Stay in Prosecution, pending the outcome of their Constitutional challenge.

The dust settled from their ordeal and not long after that Jules and Myrtle were came to be known as “The Dagga Couple.”

That was the start of an exciting journey, and the credibility of this social activism campaign was established with the founding of Fields of Green for ALL, a Non-Profit Company (NGO), in order to research and collate the masses of evidence needed for this landmark court challenge. During this time, they found that it was quite evident that the harms of cannabis prohibition far outweighed the perceived harms of the Cannabis plant itself.

While they were conducting their research into how the system of Cannabis prohibition started, they learned that the very first law prohibiting the use of Cannabis, anywhere in the world, was enacted in Natal in 1878. British colonials banned their Hindu slaves from using their “sacrament”, because the colonials believed that it made them “unfit for their duties.” By 1890 it was banned in The Cape Colony. This time it was not the Hindus but the Malays that were singled out, this time because the colonial powers believed it made them “indolent” and “prone to house-breaking.” By 1925, on the strength of a letter from the South African government to the League of Nations, Cannabis was banned worldwide. We can conclude that the prohibition of Cannabis was started here in South Africa and Jules and Myrtle were determined to end it here.

This fuelled the fire within the South African Cannabis Community and, eventually, in 2018, the Constitutional Court judgement was handed down stating that personal use in private spaces is no longer prohibited but that no dealing would be allowed. This was the first significant step towards Fields of Green for ALL.

While speaking with Myrtle during the interview she stated that everyone involved closely with the “Trial of the Plant” had mixed feelings with the judgement. She continued to say that it was both the best and the worst judgement that could have been handed down. The best in that the decision by the Constitutional Court was unanimous for the private use and cultivation, the worst in that it was clear that no trade would be allowed.  This is when Myrtle, her team and the Cannabis Community as a whole realised that the fight for Cannabis legalisation was not nearly over.

It has been 12 years since herself and Jules were arrested and there have been a few moves in the right direction on the part of the law makers. However, there is also a sense of despondency and wariness amongst herself and many within the Cannabis industry due to the unpredictability of the decisions being made by the government as it becomes obvious that many decisions and proposals ignore the fundamental evidence around the harms of Cannabis.

As we all know, the unpredictability of life would occur once again in 2020. In the early hours of the morning of the 3rd of July, Myrtle and Jules were the victims of a house robbery at the Jazzfarm in which Jules was shot and killed in his home.

The news of Jules’ passing sent shockwaves through the South African Cannabis community and around the world. Such was the impact and influence that Jules had and how many lives he had touched.

Before Jules’ murder, Fields of Green for ALL had been working on a document outlining what a legal Cannabis industry could look like in South Africa. It was written in the spirit of “You can’t get what you want unless you know what you want” – a mantra that The Dagga Couple repeated countless times over the years. This document was aptly named “Cannabis in South Africa: The People’s Plant. – A Full Spectrum Manifesto for Policy Reform.” The final version was launched on our national Cannabis Day – 20 April 2021.

It took 6 years of painstaking research and work to put together the Manifesto, written as a guiding document for lawmakers and government departments to consider the facts of the evidence presented from around the world when a policy is being constructed.

The Fields of Green for ALL team are positive that, with all this comprehensive information and positive feedback that they’ve received from everyone within the inner circles of the Cannabis industry, that government and lawmakers will take notice and consider the formation of policy that benefits ALL South Africans and be an example for the rest of Africa and the world.

Fields of Green for ALL has been active within international Drug Policy circles for 6 years and was awarded special consultative status at the United Nations in 2021. It is part of the ethos of the organisation that this issue should be tackled across every platform possible, locally and internationally and within both Drug Policy and Cannabis Culture circles.

As an NGO, Fields of Green for ALL are dependent on donations. Their Affiliate programme enables local and international companies and organisations to become closely involved in their campaigns. It remains a struggle for Fields of Green for ALL to sign up enough support to keep going in these difficult economic times. It is surprising to note from our desks here at SKYF.CO that, in the 4 years since Cannabis was “decriminalised” and has moved steadily towards industry development, that they have only 17 affiliates within their portfolio at the time of going to print.

For everything that Fields of Green for ALL has done thus far, and still very much continuing to do, we can only implore that more businesses within the Cannabis industry join Fields of Green for ALL’s affiliate programme to support them in their continuing efforts to bring about change and also to support the true heroes of our Cannabis community. As Jules always used to say, “It costs less than 2 bags of weed a month!”

If you would like to become an affiliate, download and read the manifesto, or find out more about the latest developments in Cannabis policy reform, please visit their website on www.fieldsofgreenforall.org.za

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