Government has taken its first official steps in legalising the manufacture of marijuana for medicinal use, according to a report by The Mercury.
This follows a letter sent by the Medical Control Council to IFP MP, Narend Singh (subsequently verified by The Mercury) which indicated it would publish its proposed guidelines on cannabis production for medicinal use within the coming months, following the IFP’s presentation to the council earlier in February.
“This is a major breakthrough and fantastic news for freedom of choice,” said Singh.
“Mario had fought tirelessly for this and although he proposed cannabis beyond medicinal use to also include it for recreational use, we agreed to withdraw every clause relating to non-medicinal use in our efforts to ensure it becomes legal.”
“Thousands of patients are already using cannabis oil, which comes at a premium price, and we wanted it to be made freely accessible so that the patient going to Addington or any other state hospital can request this without the exorbitant costs associated. Patients must have the freedom of choice,” said Singh.
Medical cannabis is cannabis and cannabinoids that are prescribed by doctors for their patients. The use of cannabis as a medicine has not been rigorously tested due to production restrictions and other governmental regulations but there is some evidence that proves the positive results of using it.
Medical cannabis has several potential beneficial effects. Evidence is moderate that it helps in chronic pain and muscle spasms. Low quality evidence suggests its use for reducing nausea during chemotherapy, improving appetite in HIV/AIDS, improving sleep, and improving tics in Tourette syndrome. When usual treatments are ineffective, cannabinoids have also been recommended for anorexia, arthritis, migraine, and glaucoma.
This South African Medical Association warned that access to legal marijuana will follow a strict set of guidelines.
“On 23 November, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health announced that the Department of Health would soon regulate access to medical cannabis for prescribed health conditions,” said Sama chairman, Mzukisi Grootboom.
“The public, and healthcare professionals, should note, however, that the Medical Innovation Bill seeks to allow cannabis for medical purposes only. The bill, and the regulatory framework to be introduced by the Health Department, do not apply to cannabis for recreational purposes, which remains illegal in South Africa.”
The new rules:
The Medicines Control Council is South Africa’s drug regulatory authority which is governed by the Medicines and Related Substances Act.
- Under this Act, medical practitioners can apply to the Council for permission to access and prescribe unregistered medicines – including cannabis – for their patients in certain exceptional circumstances.
- Medicinal cannabis products may thus be made available to specific patients under medical supervision.
- Only registered medical practitioners may apply for authorisation to prescribe a controlled medicine for a specific patient.
- Authorisation from the council is dependent on the submission of an appropriate dosage regimen and acceptable justification for the proposed and intended use.
- The necessary procedures for approval of the importation of suitable cannabis products for medicinal use by patients with defined medical conditions are already in place.
- Licensed domestic cultivation of medicinal cannabis will be aimed at ensuring the supply of a standardized, quality assured product for medical, scientific and clinical research purposes, and the implementation of control measures necessary to prevent misuse and to ensure patient safety.
- Cannabis grown / cultivated for medicinal purposes, as well as any resulting products prepared from the plant material, will remain subject to stringent security and quality control measures.
- The legislative framework to allow for domestic cultivation of medicinal cannabis is currently under development by the Department of Health in consultation with the Medicines Control Council