The cannabis news has been buzzing in South Africa recently. Activists and tie-dye wearing hippies are in headline-grabbing court battles trying to legalize medical cannabis in this country.
The only chance at seeing the cannabis plant legalized here lies with our country’s scientists. Scientists who literally have to “weed” out fact from fiction and find the true medical worth of the plant.
South Africa needs to figure out how it can be moved from a farmer’s field to a pharmacist’s counter.
LAW AND RESEARCH
At the moment, cannabis is classed as a schedule 7 drug in South Africa. This means that the Medicine Control Council deems the drug to be “highly addictive and not suitable for medical use”. Although cannabis has this classification, doctors can apply for special permission to prescribe it.
The country has made headway with cannabis and the law surrounding its use. The Cape Town high court ruled that banning adults from smoking or growing cannabis in their homes is unconstitutional. With this ruling, we can legally use cannabis in our homes. Great news as it may, the change does not apply to public use. At this stage can still get you locked up.
We are aware now that medical use is legal providing you obtain a license and the correct permission. It needs to be more accessible for medical use, following normal procedures for testing. Cannabis needs to be considered a regular treatment and as such will go through trials as a regular medication would.
Activists claim the treatment of many ailments. This needs to be a hard fact for scientists to say that cannabis WILL treat a broad range of conditions.
WHERE TO FROM HERE…
Last year, South Africa conducted research on cannabis using global evidence about the medicinal qualities. Scientists found sufficient information on only 2 of the cannabinoids (THC and CBD) that have been used with success. These 2 compounds are able to treat chronic pain and multiple sclerosis which are very widespread in South Africa.
So the days in which we can take to the fields and cultivate medical cannabis are probably not too far off. South Africa’s research community is trying to better understand the plants' medical potential and the Medical Control Council (MCC) has already begun to regulate medical cannabis. A big step by the MCC was changing Cannabidiol (CBD) from a schedule 7 to a schedule 6 drug. This means doctors can now legally prescribe CBD as a medication.
Legalizing cannabis will make research easier and is likely to further the current knowledge we have. There is evidence to support the claims we read every so often in news headlines stating that an illness has been successfully treated using THC or CBD oils. Furthermore, these are by no means hoaxes and even though cannabis users are aware of the positive effects, we cannot skip the normal process for legalization.
In addition, the change to the current law will bring positives and big savings with an estimated R3.5 billion used for policing, prosecution and incarceration of cannabis “offenders”. Furthermore, even with the potential savings, it is unlikely that the money saved from legalization will make its way into anything beneficial for the country’s health system.
Trust me, I am as excited as an activist when I read about legalization. Fully supportive and ready to sign my name but the outcome we want will take the country some time to achieve.
In an ideal world, cannabis would already be legal in SA. Once the MCC’s regulation is fully adopted, South Africans will be able to apply for permits to grow their very own medical cannabis. For now, our fingers are crossed as we wait for legalization in the country.