In November we reported that Parliament’s Portfolio Committee of Health gave their approval for the legalisation of medical marijuana in South Africa with regards to the late Mario Ambrosini’s Medical Innovation Bill. It has now been confirmed that next steps have been taken to legalise medical marijuana in South Africa in the form of public comment.
According to a letter sent to IFP MP, Narend Singh, the Medical Control Council’s working group on cannabis has indicated that it would publish its proposed guidelines on cannabis production for medicinal use in the next few weeks.
“This is a major breakthrough and fantastic news for freedom of choice,” said Singh.
“In the next few weeks [the guidelines] will be ready for public to comment on.”
“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.
The guidelines to be published will deal with how, specifically, cannabis can be produced for medical use.
What we know about the new Medical Marijuana 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.
“Health practitioners, doctors specifically, have not been educated or trained on cannabis as a treatment alternative. They need massive education once production becomes legal. They need to unlearn a lot of the negative myths around cannabis if patients’ right to cannabis can be fully supported by health professionals,” said pro-cannabis activist and leader of the the Anti Drug Aliance, Quintin van Kerken.
Singh agreed, warning that the production of cannabis could be monopolised if not handled correctly.
Let’s hope that others in government agree with this notion, and that we as the public ensure our voices are heard when the Medical Control Council’s proposed guidelines are released for public comment in the next few weeks.
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Latest update 07 March 2017: Government releases guidelines on medical marijuana