In a landmark ruling, the South African Constitutional Court legalised cannabis for personal and medicinal use in 2018. The ruling included the decriminalisation of using and possessing cannabis and growing cannabis in the privacy of one’s home.
While Parliament still has to pass the appropriate bills, there are questions people want answered regarding medicinal cannabis, how can one get their hands on it, legally?
Supporting Cannabis Activists
The Department of Health has echoed the views of cannabis activists in which it is their constitutional right to grow, possess and consume cannabis in a personal capacity. However, the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1865, of South Africa is yet to be amended as cannabis is listed as a schedule 7 substance (no legitimate medicinal use) unless it contains less than 0.1% THC in processed hemp fibre and products thereof not intended for ingestion or inhalation, or less than 0.001% THC in processed cannabis seed products.
Cannabidiol (CBD), however, is listed as a schedule 4 substance (legal if prescribed by a physician) and found in products manufactured using raw cannabis plants, that generally contains only the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the source material. These products should contain no more than 0.01% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and not more than 0,0075 % cannabidiol (CBD).
South Africa does not have any cannabis-containing medicines registered for use, however, people can get, use and possess cannabis for medicinal use if they have a card/prescription. Medical practitioners are only allowed to issue these prescriptions by applying for a license to import and distribute cannabis-containing medicines through the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
This does not stop people from obtaining cannabis on the black market and using it for medicinal reasons.
How People Are Using The Latest Law Relaxations For Medicinal Purposes?
People are using the fact that they are allowed to grow, possess and consume cannabis in a personal capacity to help them try medicinal treatments they never otherwise considered.
As more people become aware of the relaxation of cannabis laws in South Africa, people are starting to educate themselves on the health benefits of cannabis. While medical practitioners are not advertising that they are licensed to prescribe such health treatments, people are still getting used to the idea of having those conversations with their doctors. Patients who add these health treatments by themselves are often consuming cannabis with psychoactive properties (THC) in them.
On 27 May 2022, the presidency of South Africa issued the latest draft of the Country Investment Strategy (CIS) in which cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use is the most viable competitive sales channel to pursue at an industrial scale as cannabis is listed as a legally and globally traded agricultural commodity.
In strict accordance with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), this would mean that South Africa is ready to lead the cultivation and production of cannabis products for medicinal use that would rank amongst the highest quality products in the world. In return, this would bolster the local and international economy of cannabis products.
South Africa’s Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions
In South Africa, there aren’t any qualifying conditions set out in documents from SAHPRA to identify persons with ailments that can benefit from medical marijuana. So, right now, people who believe cannabis is helping them with their chronic pain or ailments are opting for using it for medicinal purposes. However, anyone can ask their medical practitioner about using cannabis in treatments.
Keep in mind, one should have to be issued a medical cannabis card/prescription from a SAHPRA licensed doctor. The recommendation of using medicinal cannabis is up to the medical practitioner and their choice of using cannabis as treatment.
Getting A Medical Cannabis Card
Patients in South Africa who are interested in obtaining a medical cannabis card/prescription should consult their medical practitioner and follow the appropriate channels to obtain it. There is little information about how long the process would take for your medical practitioner to get themselves licensed and how long it would take for you to collect/receive your card/prescription.
The card in question is a word used interchangeably with prescription. This would mean that you might obtain a card or a certified Doctor’s note stating the cannabis products to be used. This card/prescription is likely to lapse after retrieving it from a pharmacist, unless you do receive a card that you can take to any pharmacy or dispensary and can use it over a period of time.
Until regulatory frameworks are established and integrated into the system and society, here are the steps you can take to obtain a cannabis card/prescription.
- See An Authorised Health Practitioner
As per the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), a doctor or medical practitioner should be licensed to prescribe medicinal marijuana. Visit your local medical practitioner and explain to them your condition and your interest in seeking medicinal cannabis treatment. The doctor or medical practitioner can apply on behalf of the patient to receive such treatment, or they can recommend a different practitioner who is already licensed.
- Send A Request To Your Pharmacist
Your doctor or medical practitioner can send a request to a pharmacist who is registered with the Pharmacy Council, who will then be able to issue you cannabis products upon receipt of your prescription.
Where Can I Get My Medicinal Cannabis Products?
Apart from having the doctor or medical practitioner send a request to a registered pharmacist, patients who are in receipt of their prescription can access medicinal cannabis products through a variety of online channels and pharmacies as well.
South Africa opened its first legal medicinal cannabis pharmacy in April 2022, THC Pharmacy, and they supply CBD Hub in Gauteng and CBD Emporium in KwaZulu Natal. Online dispensaries are also entering the fast populating medicinal cannabis economy.
The process of the medical practitioner applying on the patient’s behalf is put in place as a stop-gap measure, while regulatory frameworks are worked on and introduced to meet the demand of the patients interested in this kind of treatment.