What’s the deal with Medical Marijuana in South Africa?
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Since the legalization of weed in South Africa late last year, for personal and private consumption and cultivation, we’ve largely been left with more questions than answers – a line you’ve probably heard a hundred times since the news hit.
In short, the way things are currently going is that the old laws no longer apply, nor are they enforceable – however, there aren’t yet any new laws in place. This leaves things largely in a grey area both for users, and police.
There have been too many cases of confused police making arrests for small amounts of possession or private growing that could in no way be regarded as dealing/selling (which still is, and likely will remain fully illegal).
While it’s understandable for there to be some issues with a lack of new laws in place, since the government has 24 months to come up with a new legal framework regarding dagga; it’s not fair that South Africans are still spending the night in jail for a little bit of ‘what’s meant to be legal weed’.
Yes, It’s legal for personal medicinal and recreational use. This, however, isn’t an answer that circumvents the issues we’ve just mentioned. Medical use is, however, a justification far more likely to get the police or authorities to leave you alone, should an issue arise.
Recently, with medical cannabis products making their way further into the mainstream, there’s a lot more information readily available. Furthermore, thanks to increases in legalization and a drop in restrictions on the study of weed, we’re finally getting some concrete evidence showing that it does work in the way people have claimed.
Take, for example, the huge discoveries made in using cannabinoids to treat seizures in children. If you had used treating a child’s seizures as a reason for possessing cannabis ten years ago, you most probably would have been arrested and charged heavily.
Thus, it seems the general public (yes, this includes police officers) seem to be getting better educated around the topics of cannabis, and we can only hope will be more understanding when dealing with cases of cultivation or possession for medical use.
There’s really not much framework for this topic, currently. There are a number of oils, salves, balms and ointments available from various trusted suppliers around South Africa, such as Faithful to Nature, who are selling cannabis-based products for the treatment of illnesses or ailments. They’re supplying quality products that work, are regulated, and made of high quality plants – however this only completes half of the ideal medical system.
At the moment, medical mary jane in South Africa works very much on a self-medication basis. While we all hear exciting stories of our aunt’s GP recommending canna-oil for her joint pain, or your local physio selling CBD drops for pain management for muscle injuries, these occurrences are still few and far between. Compared to somewhere like California that has the option of full-on, medically prescribed cannabis; we really don’t have any reliable system in South Africa. We have to rely on self-education and self-medication which certainly has its pros and cons.
There are, however, openings for companies and businesses to start applying for licenses to produce cannabis in South Africa, through the Medicines Control Council (MCC / SAHPRA). This will form part of the integral first steps into a world of fully legal cannabis in our country. In addition, certain cannabinoids like CBD are completely legal to sell over the counter, treated more as a supplement since they are non-intoxicating. These can be found in many health and wellness shops, as well as in South Africa’s first Medical Cannabis Dispensary.
The only current dispensary that exists in South Africa, or in fact all of Southern Africa and possibly the entire continent, is Holistic Releaf Wellness and Pain Management Centre in Durban North.
Founded by Krithi Thaver, one of the founders of Canna Culture SA and the head chairperson of the Cannabis Development Council of South Africa (CDCSA), they aim to diagnose and treat patients seeking help, using holistic, cannabis-centric healing.
It’s apparent that they’re not operating under a standard medical consultation framework, but rather are able to practice such treatment under the Traditional Health Practitioners Act – a set of laws that are in place to protect traditional healers who have been using cannabis or other banned substances in their healing long before the advent of modern law in South Africa.
You can visit their outlet to receive a consultation, diagnosis and corresponding medicine should you happen to pass by – they offer a number of health and medical services, as well as a huge range of cannabis or cannabinoid-containing products in an unimaginable range of formats and styles, treating a huge list of ailments.
Medical Cannabis is locally still very much a blurry picture. As time passes, and the first medical licenses get handed out (which we’re sure will soon begin), we can see how the government is testing the waters in terms of what they will allow, and how they will allow it.
Since cannabis is a great cash crop for our government, as shown by Colorado and Oregon’s huge influx of tax money from weed, we can’t doubt for a minute that our own government is looking for ways to profit and benefit from the introduction of legal cannabis.
This means that we need to keep a careful eye on proceedings, and how these new laws develop so that we can band together to fight issues that will prevent cannabis from being a totally legal plant. It should be available to everyone to enjoy, consume, use medically and recreationally in a reasonable manner.
If the government only allows big businesses such licenses, the every-day subsistence cultivator is at a loss. However, if every Tom, Dick and Harry can set up their own pot shop, we’re going to see issues similar to those seen in Oregon.
It’s going to be a long and arduous process that we need to stay involved in, and aware of.