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Cape Town -
In an emotional plea for a change to the law, IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini on Wednesday admitted he was using dagga as part of his fight against the terminal cancer he was diagnosed with almost a year ago.
“I was supposed to die many months ago. I am here because I had the courage of seeking alternatives... in Italy in the form of bicarbonate of soda and here in South Africa in the form of cannabis, marijuana, dagga,” Oriani-Ambrosini said, adding: “It is a crime against humanity not to allow this...”
The IFP MP announced he had submitted a private member’s bill to allow doctors greater discretion in what treatments to prescribe to terminally ill patients, including medical marijuana and bicarbonate of soda.
Oriani-Ambrosini takes dagga in the form of an oil as part of the alternative cancer treatment he embarked on last April after being diagnosed with terminal stage-four lung cancer.
“I have to speak out. I have had opportunities which are withheld from others. Someone has to speak up in the first person,” he said.
During his four minutes on the National Assembly podium, the MP pointed out an advocate in the public gallery who had instructions to take the government to court to push for the legalisation of medical marijuana as is permitted, for example, in 20 states in the US.
Last month, France’s health ministry gave the nod to medical marijuana, falling in line with 17 other European countries.
However, Oriani-Ambrosini, who battled to speak with a hoarse voice and had clearly lost much weight, said he had advised against court action, instead punting his private member’s Medical Innovation Bill.
His appeal appeared to have found an ear. Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who followed him in the debate, announced that she and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who had earlier listened attentively, had just had a word.
“We are very keenly following up the potential of decriminalising medical marijuana. We are a caring society,” said Sisulu, adding on a personal note to someone she had worked with: “It hurts me to see you in the state you are in.”
At the start of his speech, Oriani-Ambrosini turned to the ANC side of the House to address President Jacob Zuma: “You’ve known me for 20 years and I’m sure you had a few occasions to curse my name” – and proceeded with an appeal to help “people who are dying of bad policies and bad laws we can change”.
Later, he also had a word or two for Motsoaledi. “I admire our minister of health. He has guts and backbone… ”