The proposed cultivation and production of dagga for medical use is groundbreaking and will herald the start of the “plant of a thousand uses” being taken up for other purposes, including industrial, according to campaigners.
This comes in the wake of the Medicines Control Council (MCC) adopting new guidelines for the medicinal use of dagga in South Africa.
MCC law enforcement manager Griffith Molewa said the guidelines had been discussed and adopted by the council at a meeting last month.
“We are [collating] the suggestions proposed at that meeting. After this, we will publish the guidelines on our website,” Molewa said.
The move has been hailed by the Inkatha Freedom Party, whose former MP Mario Ambrosini championed the cause in parliament before he died of lung cancer in 2014.
It has also been welcomed by prominent Port Elizabeth dagga campaigner David Pittaway, who argues that legalising and taxing it could generate money that could be used to fund indigent students. “But this [medicinal use guidelines] must be a movement away from the reign of corporate pharmaceutical control of the health industry,” Pittaway said.
Molewa said the aim of the guidelines would be to inform the public about the requirements to be met before being allowed to produce dagga for medicinal purposes.
“This cannabis [dagga] will then become legal to cultivate . . . for medicinal purposes only,” he said.
The guideline document would be published to allow for public comment. The document would then be published for implementation.
Any person who meets the criteria as set out in the guidelines will be granted a permit to cultivate dagga for medical purposes.
“The amount to be cultivated for the entire country will be subject to negotiations between South Africa and the International Narcotics Control Board,” Molewa said. “This amount will then be divided among the growers.”
He said the Medicines and Related Substances Act stated clearly how medicines were to be handled and controlled to avoid abuse.
As a schedule six medicine, dagga would be available only through a pharmacist, doctor, dentist or veterinarian.
He said dagga for medicinal use would be allowed in any pharmaceutical dosage form, but not smoking.
Pittaway called the move “a major step in the direction of people’s rights – in this instance, the right to choose”.
“Soon we will be able to choose to use a medicine that has a cultural legacy in this country without the fear of state-led persecution, so this is also a victory for what one can broadly call the older cultures that had [and in some instances still have] a stronger connection with Mother Earth,” he said.
“It is vitally important that this connection is strengthened . . . considering the backdrop of the ecological crisis.”
Pittaway agreed with Inkatha MP Narend Singh, who has cautioned against potential monopolisation in the production of the herb.
“[It] must be available and affordable to all people in a format where the natural medicinal properties remain intact, which will not be the case when privatising powers attempt to patent this or that molecule and butcher the plant’s holistic properties.
“This move hopefully will mark the beginning of a movement in the direction not just of the freedom to choose to use the ‘plant of a thousand uses’ for medicinal purposes, but for various other purposes, including industrial and personal use.
“I, for one, wish to live in a mature society where I have power over my own consciousness, and where I can exercise that power by choosing to use cannabis in a responsible fashion if I so wish.”
The guidelines will be published on www.mccza.com