There will be divergent views on the news that the Medicines Control Council (MCC) has adopted new guidelines for the cultivation and production of dagga for medical use in South Africa.
After all, it opens the door to legal cultivation of an illegal drug.
What is more, those against the legalisation of dagga argue it is often the gateway to the use and abuse of harder drugs.
Last month, The Herald reported on the current state of evidence of the health effects of dagga and cannabinoids in which the National Academies of Sciences‚ Engineering and Medicine found there were both positive and negative effects.
Certainly it has been used as a herbal remedy for centuries and more than one state in the US has already sanctions its use as an adjunct to cancer care.
Anyone familiar with the horribly debilitating side effects of conventional cancer treatments will only welcome better and more effective therapies.
There is no magic bullet for this killer disease. However, we must be open to using all and any weapons potentially available to fight the suffering that it causes.
That said, we are far away from walking into the nearest pharmacy with a script for medicinal dagga.
For a start, the guideline document is still to be published to allow for public comment. Then, of course, it needs to be regulated and the Medicines and Related Substances Act states clearly how medicines are to be handled.
This control is essential to avoid abuse and as a schedule six medicine dagga would, in terms of the act, be available only through a pharmacist, doctor, dentist or veterinarian.
It is time we opened our eyes to the potential of new and alternate drugs, and certainly “big pharma” need not have a monopoly on curative medicine.
On the other hand, just because a substance is “natural” does not mean that it is necessarily an effective medicine, or safe, any more so than a drug that has been through rigorous medical tests that include placebobased, double-blind studies that are both reliable and valid.
The anecdotal evidence must now be supplemented with more medical knowledge.