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MPs debate virtues of dagga

Cape Town - Everyone knew someone with cancer, and the fear that such a diagnosis caused, MPs agreed in an emotional debate which for once lacked blatant politicking, after IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini opened on Wednesday’s discussion with a plea for a holistic response to the cancer “pandemic”.

But parliamentarians fretted how best to fight the disease, stopping short of a wholesale endorsement of alternative treatments, like dagga.

IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini is terminally ill and has admitted to using medicinal marijuana. Picture: David Ritchie. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

Oriani-Ambrosini last month admitted to using dagga, in oil form, as part of his alternative treatment regimen for the aggressive, terminal lung cancer with which he was diagnosed in April last year. His statement during the parliamentary State of the Nation address debate was followed by the tabling of a private member’s bill to allow doctors greater discretion on what treatments to prescribe to terminally ill patients, including bicarbonate of soda and medical marijuana.

Delivering his final speech in Parliament, DA MP Pierre Rabie disclosed both he and his wife are cancer survivors, while DA deputy chief whip Sandy Kalyan paid tribute to a dear friend, who had died at the weekend.

Often struggling to speak Oriani-Ambrosini said cancer knew no political differentiation. “Cancer is not just a health emergency, it’s a societal emergency. We must train our communities, our families, our workplaces...”

This meant creating the space for alternative therapies – including bicarbonate of soda, dagga, alkalising diets and oxygen therapy – to be administered under controlled circumstances. Dagga was a “small segment of what our government can do and must do”, he said, adding that there was a need for centres where alternative treatments could be administered.

He claimed chemotherapy and radiation therapy did not work, and were unaffordable under a national health insurance scheme. “Think of what you would do with your cellphones if (they) did not work 97 percent of (the time),” Oriani-Ambrosini said.

Parliamentary health committee chairman Monwabisi Bevan Goqwana said anything that was medicinal should be used, but the important question was “Is it safe to be used by the people?”

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said: “We support scientific, controlled research to see what the effect would be if dagga was also used as part of the treatment. I don’t think any one can oppose this”.

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