South Africa’s Medical Control Council has announced it would soon publish guidelines for medical cannabis production and a framework allowing access to patients with severe medical conditions.
The South African government has given the go-ahead for the manufacturing of cannabis for medical purposes, Independent Online reports. Cannabis is already permitted in South Africa for medicinal purposes, but only under strict supervision and for exceptional circumstances. The few who do obtain special permission often have difficulty managing cannabis oil’s current high costs.
The Medical Control Council sent a letter to Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Narend Singh announcing that it would soon publish its proposed guidelines on medical cannabis production. The framework would allow patients diagnosed with severe conditions to appeal to the council for medical cannabis approval.
Singh called the announcement a “major victory,” and heralded the efforts of his party’s former MP, Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who had passionately fought for medical cannabis legalization before passing away in 2014 from lung cancer.
“This is a major breakthrough and fantastic news for freedom of choice,” said Singh, as reported by Independent Online. “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.”
“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 Medical Control Council had announced last December that medical cannabis would be legalized sometime in 2017, after the Medical Innovation Bill had prompted a two-year period of investigation and research into medical cannabis’ therapeutic effects.
The new proposed regulations will be aimed at licensed domestic cultivation of medical cannabis, which should open up access to more patients and improve affordability. Cannabis will be rescheduled from Schedule 7 to Schedule 6, a category reserved for prescription medications. The Medical Control Council did not provide a timeline for the publication of the guidelines, which will still need to be formally implemented.
“Production must be aimed at making it a medicinal, affordable drug for those who need it. It should not be an exclusive drug of choice for those who have the money. That is what we are arguing for,” said Singh.
Quintin van Kerken of South Africa’s Anti-Drug Alliance urged for the need for greater public and professional awareness of cannabis and its therapeutic effects.
“Health practitioners, doctors specifically, have not been educated or trained on cannabis as a treatment alternative,” van Kerken said. “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.”
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