The government of South Africa has indicated that it intends to allow for the production of cannabis for medicinal purposes, following a years-long battle for the substance’s legalization by a legendary member of the country’s parliament.
South Africa’s announcement
Narend Singh – an MP with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) – said that he had received a letter from the government’s Medicines Control Council (MCC) informing him of their decision.
The MCC’s Dr. Joey Gouws stated in the letter that the body would publish guidelines governing the production of medical cannabis.
The MCC made clear that its new rules – which apply to various aspects of the forthcoming medical cannabis regime, including the substance’s cultivation, authorization, and use – would be reserved for medical cannabis and not recreational.
The body held a meeting last week in which they discussed the issue, including proposed guidelines and investigations into how the substance would be regulated.
I trust that our office will be able to share the MCC proposed guidelines for the manufacture of cannabis for medicinal use on the MCC website following the planned MCC meeting of mid-February.
MP Singh hailed this news as a profound achievement on behalf of the country.
This is a major breakthrough and fantastic news for freedom of choice… 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.
South Africa law currently does allow for the use of medical cannabis, though only in specific circumstances that the MCC must approve. Singh said it remains unclear how long it will take before the draft documents may become the law of the land.
A long time coming
The MCC’s announcement comes after a years-long fight amongst the country’s citizens and legislators to ease access to medical cannabis.
The MCC released a memo last November in which it outlined how a legal medicinal cannabis initiative would be structured.
Several weeks later, MP Singh filed a bill titled the Medicinal Innovation Bill that ultimately prompted the MCC to take action on the issue.
Some legislators, such as Central Drug Authority Deputy Chairman David Bayever, complained that it was not specific enough in terms of how it would restructure the current approach to medicinal cannabis.
At this stage we feel that the bill is confusing as it proposes medicinal use and other uses such as commercialization of the plant, which we believe would add to more social problems that the country is facing.
The bill filed by Singh that prompted action by the MCC had been spearheaded by Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, a former IFP MP who advocated forcefully for liberalization of cannabis laws regarding recreational use.
Oriani-Ambrosini introduced the Medical Innovation Bill into the country’s Parliament in early 2014. He died six months later of lung cancer. He was remembered by Singh for his ceaseless efforts to ease access to cannabis.
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.