Stobbs and his partner, Myrtle Clarke – known in South Africa as the “dagga couple” – came to international prominence when they challenged the SA government rather than plead guilty to marijuana possession and dealing charges leveled against them in 2010.
They eventually sued seven governmental agencies responsible for enforcing the country’s cannabis laws, leading to the celebrated “Trial of the Plant,” which prompted a 2017 ruling by Western Cape’s high court that marijuana can be grown and used at home, and an order for the South African parliament to change its Drug Trafficking and Medicines Control Acts.
Stobbs and Clarke were arrested in an August 2010 police raid on their home, which led to charges of possession with intent to sell marijuana. “We had a very heavy handed visit from the South African Police Service who, acting on a tip off, raided our property in search of a ‘drug lab’,” Clarke later said of the raid on the couple’s farm outside of Johannesburg. “What they found was a quiet middle aged couple in their pajamas and a quantity of dagga. We were arrested after a five-hour ordeal in our kitchen.”
“I found myself with the police and a revolver on my cheek in my lounge,” Stobbs recalled of the raid.
“The more we thought about it, the more we realized this was a gross invasion of our privacy,” Clarke said in “Ordinary Criminals,” their joint 2015 TEDx talk. “This is about sovereignty, it’s about cognitive liberty, it’s about the very freedom of our minds.”
Acting on the advice of a legal adviser, the couple set up the non-profit Fields of Green for ALL to manage their case, then built a social media following that attracted more than 50,000 Facebook followers all over the world.
In preparing for their case, Clarke and Stobbs studied existing cannabis laws around the world, put together a team of progressive lawyers, and convinced international experts to testify on their behalf about the health effects of cannabis, and cannabis policy.
Their legal challenges led to rulings that stopped police from arresting adults for growing cannabis for personal use, based on their arguments that the country’s laws were “unjust and irrational, not supported by any empirical evidence and outdated.”
Stobbs, a retired UK Royal Navy air traffic controller and art director in television and film, admitted openly that he had smoked marijuana for decades. “You forget to realize that everybody that uses any drug has rights as well,” he said ahead of a 2017 court hearing. “They are not animals and should not be put in jail.”
Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke operated a private members’ club and music venue on the property. The armed robbery occurred in the early hours of Friday morning.
“The attackers entered the couple’s bedroom and shot and fatally wounded Jules Stobbs. Myrtle was physically unharmed and the attackers made off with two cellphones and two laptops,” said the Fields of Green For All non-profit organisation, where they held leading roles.
“The cannabis community is mourning the passing of our hero. The family is requesting that the public respect their privacy and allow Myrtle and the family some space during this difficult time. Thank you for the outpouring of love we have already received,” the statement read.