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CONVERSATIONS WITH MYRTLESally-Jay StrongThis is where it all takes place - the nerve centre of Fields of Green for ALL.
Activists, Freedom Fighters, Agents of Change and the flame that lit the Cannabis revolution in South Africa, call them what you like but know this: these are the guys responsible for changing the laws that will allow every citizen equal access to the beneficial cannabis plant.As we ride up through the wild bushveld in the Cradle of Mankind, slowly there emerges, like a hidden haven, the most enchanting place that is home to a powerhouse of Cannabis culture known as The Dagga Couple. Having been struck by the intriguing and very tasteful design of The Jazzfarm and the many artworks, we start a series of conversations with Myrtle, to show the beautiful soul of this incredible human being. The people behind Fields of Green for ALL, whose ingenuity and fortitude have paved the way for the evolution of cannabis culture and the amazing opportunities we now have to legitimise the industry, work tirelessly to make sure that we no longer have to hide in the shadows. We are forming a strategic alliance to help the cause and want to feature every member of this remarkable conglomeration of 11 people changing the world, despite continuing and unfathomable adversity.
Listening to her detail their lives, struggles and characters, you start to understand the immense drive they all have and their deep love for their work and humanity.
It is a mammoth task to try to get her to talk about anything else, Myrtle is just so passionate that the struggle has become all pervasive.
The lives of Jules, Myrtle and The Jazzfarm are so intertwined, that you really can’t tell the story of one without the other. It would be like trying to solve a puzzle with 2 thirds missing. Let’s begin with the Man Himself The presence of Jules, a colourful character through and through, can be felt throughout the property, and his vibrant spirit seen in the mosaics that are everywhere, displayed in the most unusual places. A haunting legacy.
Despite being totally opposed to military ideology and refusing to bear arms, he joined the navy after leaving school early. Jules landed himself a position in air-traffic control, far away from the guys with the guns. After leaving the Navy, on one of his many adventures he went to India and taught himself to play the guitar.
Jules and some cool cats formed a band called The Jazzfarmers and started a dream that would one day become so much more. Every summer for 4 years he would travel from India to Kyoto in Japan to busk outside karaoke bars and save as much money as he could. Once he had 1 Million yen saved, Jules moved to South Africa and bought the property, now affectionately known as The Jazzfarm.Both Jules and Myrtle worked in the movie industry before becoming full time Cannabis Activists. They met at the legendary Rustler’s Valley in the Eastern Free State, where Myrtle had the restaurant. It was a place where they both formed lifelong friendships with interesting people from around the world, something which continues at The Jazzfarm to this day, infusing the place, with life and spirit.
When Myrtle left the mountains, Jules gave her a place to stay. That was 16 years ago and the rest is history.Then, at 2am on the 5th of August 2010 the police arrived at The JazzfarmJules and Myrtle were arrested and charged with possession and dealing in Dagga. They were unceremoniously chucked in the chookie and in very short order were informed that they were facing 7-10 years for having just under 2kgs of Dagga in their home. Out on bail and in Namibia for a chance to think things through, Jules’ life-long love of the history of Cannabis gave them the idea to tackle this on constitutional grounds. An idea started forming. One that would require a lot of resources, skills and knowledge that they didn’t have. The search was on to find a law firm willing to take on the government (pro bono – for free) to fight for the peoples’ right to grow and use Dagga. To their astonishment and delight, Schindlers Attorneys not only took on the case, but they now have a whole Cannabis department dedicated to the cause. Jules is famous for saying, “I’m not sick and I don’t want to make socks - I just want to get stoned. The prohibition of Dagga is a Human Rights travesty.” Fed up with the trauma of being locked up more than once, hearing about thousands of people being harassed, fined, jailed and even brutalised just because of a plant – The Dagga Couple (as they were affectionately named by the media) and their “TRIAL OF THE PLANT” became central to Cannabis legalisation in South Africa. A non-profit company – Fields of Green for ALL - was formed (for an illegal plant, which was not easy to do) to give a voice to the thousands of citizens who were (and still are) the victims of police harassment and incarceration, most often ending in life altering circumstances that were needlessly cruel. Jules and Myrtle mounted a campaign to let South Africans know that if they get caught with weed, help was just a phone call away, and that there was a future where this would no longer be allowed to happen. The response was almost overwhelming. People were calling all the time, from every corner of South Africa.A woman sat before Myrtle the night before her first court appearance after being arrested in her small, modest home.
A tear rolled down her cheek as she said, “Die dagga sit die kos op die tafel?” (the Dagga puts the food on the table). That same woman sat stone-faced on the stand the next morning, Judge looming over her with a frown, waiting for her attorney (provided by Fields of Green for ALL), who stepped forward in a beautifully tailored suit and silk tie to defend this “nobody” for selling weed to feed her family.
“The expression on that judges’ face is one that will make me smile for the rest of my life! This is awesome because no longer could they just walk over the little guy and think that he can’t afford to defend himself,” Myrtle told us.
An unstoppable revolution had begun, that continues to this day.Myrtle will also tell you that one of her fondest memories is the Sunday during The Trial of the Plant when they hosted their expert witnesses at The Jazzfarm. Half way through the gruelling 10 days in court, being examined, cross-examined and raked over the coals, weary but jubilantly celebrating the mammoth battle they were fighting and gathering strength for the road ahead.
This is a very poignant memory for Myrtle as she and Jules would never have believed that they would host world renowned Drug policy experts like Prof David Nutt and Dr Ethan Nadelman in their home.
This just underlined the core principles of The Dagga Couple’s efforts. Legalising Cannabis is not just about our right to light up and grow weed, it’s about every human’s right to earn a living and HEAL themselves with natural medicine. The right of every person not to be victimised and persecuted for their use, cultivation and trade in a plant that actually has the potential to change life for the better in so many ways.
There were, and still are, many stumbling blocks, but like the weed, the passion grows and spreads like wildfire, leaving joy and healing in its wake. One cold dark night, July 3 2020, Julian Christopher Stobbs was murdered. Shot dead in his bed.The Jazzfarm was Julian’s haven. He was at his happiest in his garden, workshop and studio. It was the one thing that calmed and focused him in a crazy world. Creativity has obviously been central to the evolution of this place. Constantly seeing the world through his particular lens, Jules was forever filming, writing, conceptualising - he never stopped. We would like to thank Jules and Myrtle for helping to get rid of Cannabis prohibition for all of us, and know that he is on the other side, constructing a mosaic of his life in the sky, lovingly grumbling about us as we stumble along. In fact, this is how the #HotBoxShow, South Africa’s longest running Cannabis Culture show, was born. Jules and Myrtle needed to get their message out there in a visual way. Life never stood still. There were always things to do, places to go, people to meet. Every year in the spring they would host legendary parties that are still spoken of to this day and, like a magnet for interesting people from around the globe, The Jazzfarm still has legendary characters popping in to catch up and share stories. The meandering pathways, the labyrinth, the flashes of colour and light guide you through the Jazzfarm in an astonishing, meditative journey, telling the story of a most remarkable life. There are reminders of all who have passed through her gates, many souls from all over this green earth, who have gathered here to think, mourn, celebrate and innovate. Even now, the Jazzfarm is a haven to all who have helped create this special, secret place. What can I say I’ve learned about Myrtle during this interview? The Jazzfarm is filled with interesting items and art works, collected over years of crazy adventures. Her absolute favourite food is roast lamb, she loves textiles and fabrics in vibrant designs, varied textures and colours, which can be seen throughout the elegant and eclectic design of the Jazzfarm. Artistic, vivacious and humble, always ready with a smile and an interesting story.
She has no patience for rubbish and nonsense, and would rather pass the time with friends, new and old, making happy memories and, per chance, making history. Myrtle at the launch of the Manifesto for the PeopleI had the pleasure of attending the launch of their Manifesto for the People, and spent some time quietly watching her as she moved through the crowd, greeting and thanking people. Eventually she sat down with her team - her family, and I saw Myrtle - finally at rest.
Even then, all she can talk about is Jules, or what the plan is, how to move forward, how to get more people involved, and on, and on, and on …
She is the spirit of the movement, the spirit of Ubuntu. Walking among us, working tirelessly for our natural rights. She speaks and the people listen. What sage advice does this Diva of Dagga have for the next generation?Be inspired. Be curious. Open your eyes to the fact that there are infinite possibilities in life. There is good here beyond the bull, just go out and find it.The Jazzfarm is ever evolving and has a family, a global, eclectic family of like-minded people full of love, adventure and purpose. It is a haven for family, friends, community.
The legacy Jules leaves and the life that Myrtle still lives, is one that has formed deep roots in the Global Cannabis community and can only blossom into a brighter future where we can all reap the fruits of their hard work and dedication.