The legal use of medical cannabis made headway this week as South Africa’s department of health plans to have cannabis recognised as a prescription drug, rather than an illegal substance.
The Medical Control Council (MCC) has announced that their investigation into the use of medical cannabis has made progress. MCC registrar Dr Joey Gouws briefed the National Assembly on Health this week. She says that the regulation of medical cannabis will start as early as February.
This will entail the issuing of permits to ensure:
- The controlled growing of cannabis
- The supply of standardised high quality products
So Why Is This Possible Now?
- South Africa has a Medicines and Related Substances Act.
- While the Act has allowed for research into cannabis it hasn’t allowed for its medical use.
- President Jacob Zuma is about to pass the latest version into law.
- The MCC has asked for an amendment to be made to this Act.
- They would like medical cannabis to be downgraded from a schedule 7 drug (banned) to a schedule 6 drug (prescription).
The MCC described this Act as enabling. Stating that all that is missing is the licensing of developing quality assured products.
How Likely Is It To Go Through?
Well, recently Parliament proposed a Medical Innovation Bill. This Bill also seeks to legalise cannabis for medical use. It wishes to pave the way for increased research and use of alternative medicines in cancer and terminal patients.
It argues that:
- Cannabis is effective in treating pain.
- It has inexpensive healing properties which could counter unaffordable healthcare.
Parliament commends the MCC on their “remarkable progress”. And Narend Singh, IFP chief whip, says that the party will consider withdrawing its tabling of the Medical Innovation Bill if the new regulations meet the objectives of the Bill.
He says: “What I would like to see is that cannabis products should be made available to all, including the poor. At the moment, these drugs are available on the black market and they are very expensive. That means many poor South Africans don’t have access to these drugs despite their pain-relief benefits for chronic pain.”
The MCC also says that discussions with various stakeholders are already underway.
Who Would Be Eligible For A Prescription?
Dr Gouws says that those eligible for treatment would include:
- Individuals with severe chronic pain
- Sufferers of HIV/Aids and cancer
She says that there is, however, also a need for ongoing research into the long term effects of medical cannabis.
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