South African cannabis activist Jules Stobbs, better known as half of the “Dagga Couple,” has been murdered.
The cannabis community mourns another huge loss today as we learn of the tragic death of beloved South African cannabis activist Julian Christian “Jules” Stobbs, who was apparently shot and killed in his bedroom by armed robbers during a home invasion in the wee hours Friday morning. He was 59 years old.
Stobbs and his wife Myrtle Clarke—better known as the “Dagga Couple”—have been the most influential cannabis activists in South Africa over the past decade. Their high-profile court case, dubbed “The Trial of the Plant,” was directly responsible for getting cannabis (colloquially known there as “dagga”) legalized for personal use across the country of South Africa.
According to early reports, a group of three to four men broke into the couple’s home in Sundrella near Johannesburg at around 2:30 a.m. to rob the place. There they encountered Stobbs, struggled with him, and left with two cellphones and two laptops, among other items—but then returned a few minutes later and shot him.
An avid traveler and former air traffic controller for the British navy, Stobbs moved to South Africa 26 years ago, where he met and fell in love with Myrtle Clarke. The couple was involved in South Africa’s entertainment industry, working on the popular reality show Big Brother and living together on their farm. But their lives were changed forever in 2010 when their home was violently raided (without a warrant) by police, leading to a five-hour ordeal during which officers held a gun against Stobbs’ face for hours, strip-searched his wife three times, and continually harassed them about a non-existent “drug lab.” Like in the United States, cannabis is a controlled substance in South Africa—placed in the same category as heroin. They never found the supposed drug lab, but due to the sizable personal stash of weed found in their home (around a quarter-pound), they were accused of being drug dealers.
TRIAL OF THE PLANT
The couple faced ten years in prison, but rather than accept a plea deal for a more lenient sentence they instead chose to challenge the unfair law—beginning a controversial five-year legal battle that became known as The Trial of the Plant. Up against not only state prosecutors and police, but powerful Christian organizations like Doctors for Life and their horde of fake protestors, the Dagga Couple raised money to fly in experts to testify on their behalf. Despite some early setbacks, in the end, the Dagga Couple prevailed: in 2017, the Western Cape High Court ruled that prohibiting the use and possession of cannabis in the privacy of one’s own home was unconstitutional—ordering that cultivation, possession and personal use of dagga on private property must be permitted. The State appealed the ruling, but in September the following year, the Constitutional Court upheld it—thus officially legalizing dagga for personal use throughout the country.
Due to their historic court battle, The Dagga Couple became stars in the international cannabis movement. In 2014, they founded Fields of Green For All, a non-profit activist organization dedicated to defending the rights of cannabis users and further reforming the laws. They turned their home into a members-only venue dubbed the Jazz Farm, where they held small musical performances and events. They attended the Cannabis Culture Awards at the Sensi Seed Museum in Amsterdam in 2014 and gave a TedTalk about their experiences at the TedX Capetown event in 2015. More recently, on April 20 of this year, the couple was just honored with a 420 Icon award by the Cannabis Business Awards (in collaboration with World of Cannabis)—naming them among the top 100 cannabis influencers of all time. Stobbs also co-hosted an online talk show called the Hot Box Show, the most recent episode of which he’d reportedly filmed just hours before he was killed.
Since the news broke, tributes from the shocked and saddened cannabis community have begun pouring in online. Our founder Jair Velleman, who was a good friend of Stobbs, had this to say:
“The first time I visited South Africa to help build bridges within the international cannabis community, I was invited by Jules and Myrtle to stay with them at their Jazz Farm. It was a magical place—built like a hippie compound with mosaics, a San Pedro garden, and buildings in different organic shapes. We not only talked about cannabis but also connected on a spiritual level. I had an amazing time. We’ve stayed in touch ever since. We live far apart, but we spoke often. I will miss those calls, I will miss his vibe. He was a true warrior for cannabis and one of the sweetest persons I ever met. I am totally heartbroken...all I can do now is roll one in his honor, because as Jules would say, ‘Fuck it—let’s smoke some more weed.’”
World of Cannabis would like to express our deep sorrow at this devastating loss, and our heartfelt sympathies to his widow Myrtle Clarke and the rest of their family during this terrible time. Rest in power, Jules.