Medical marijuana given green light in South Africa: report

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.

Speaking in tribute of late IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, a long-time advocate for the legalisation of marijuana in South Africa, Singh noted that while Oriani-Ambrosini had strongly advocated that the drug also be used for recreational use, the IFP alongside other lawmakers had agreed to withdraw any mention of non-medicinal use in the legalisation bill so that it passed muster.

This was reiterated the South African Medical Association who 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

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