The cannabis community has lost one of its guiding lights with the tragic passing of Jules Stobbs. Having had the privilege of working with Jules just a few months ago, everyone here at Seedsman would like to pay tribute to a man whose legacy has literally altered the course of history and opened the door to fairer cannabis policies around the world.
A friend to all who had the pleasure of meeting him, Jules and his partner Myrtle Clarke became – in their own words – “reluctant activists” when they took on and transformed the South African legal system after being threatened with ten years in prison for cannabis possession. Thanks to their courage, dedication and vision, millions of people in South Africa and beyond can now access the plant without fear of being stigmatised or subjected to police brutality.
Yet all who stand to benefit from the sacrifices made by Jules and Myrtle were left feeling numb following an unspeakable tragedy that occurred in the early hours of July 3rd, when armed robbers broke into the couple’s home and fatally shot Jules. The news has sparked an outpouring of grief from around the world, with many of the most influential figures in the global cannabis community taking to social media to pay their respects to a truly great man.
Born in the UK, Jules moved to South Africa and settled down with Myrtle after retiring from service in the Royal Navy. Though he never intended to become an activist, his passion for justice was ignited after police raided the couple’s home in 2010 without a warrant, violating their human rights and holding Jules at gunpoint while they searched for a “drug lab” that did not exist. He and Myrtle recently described the ordeal in an interview with Seedsman, which you can watch below.
Though no lab was found, the couple were nonetheless arrested and charged with possession – a crime that carried a disproportionately harsh penalty. While the pair could easily have bought their way off the hook by paying an 80,000 rand bribe, they instead chose to challenge the country’s prohibitionist laws in the hopes of ending a system that unfairly criminalises huge numbers of people.
Their high-profile case, which became known as the “Trial of the Plant”, began in 2013 and culminated five years later with the decriminalisation of cannabis in South Africa. Affectionately known worldwide as The Dagga Couple, Jules and Myrtle worked tirelessly to achieve their landmark victory, giving talks around the world in order to gain support for cannabis reform while collating a colossal amount of research in order to argue their case. They had to sue seven government departments, and eventually had their charges dropped after proving that the prohibition of marijuana in South Africa was based on “unlawful laws”.
Yet the pair did not rest once their own case had been won. Their non-profit organisation, Fields Of Green For ALL, continues to fight for the legalisation of cannabis in South Africa, and provides assistance to individuals and communities that have been marginalised because marijuana use.
“We are not free until everyone is free,” the pair have said. “We will not get equitable regulations in South Africa (or the rest of Africa) unless both our government and the emerging industry becomes cognisant of those who are most likely to be left behind.”[i]
Known for his warmth, openness and charisma, Jules helped to propel the movement by hosting a popular podcast called The Hotbox Show. In an episode that aired just hours before his death, Jules fulfilled a longstanding ambition by interviewing cannabis legend Steve DeAngelo.
His co-host Joanne Parry later explained that “Jules had been incredibly excited and it was his dream to interview Steve DeAngelo since the start of the show.”
“Jules was floating when we left the studio to go to the main house. He was floating on air like a kid on Christmas. It was one of the highlights in his career,” she added.[ii]
Following Jules’ untimely death, other members of The Hotbox Show recorded an emotional episode in which they paid tribute to their friend, with others around the world joining in to give thanks for all that he has done and the barriers he has helped to topple.
While the pain of losing Jules is likely to take a long time to heal, his spirit will live on through the millions of people that have been inspired to carry on his work. Anyone who wants to join the cause should head over to the Fields of Green for ALL website for information on how to support the organisation, and if you’re a breeder then you might want to think about naming a new cultivar in honour of the great Jules Stobbs.