Cape Town -
IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini’s urgent call for the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal use seems to have found an ear in the country’s top office.
“I was touched to see the man I’ve known and worked with for more than 20 years in this condition. I’ve asked the minister of health to look into this matter,” President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday during his reply to the parliamentary debate on the State of the Nation address.
Less than two hours earlier, Oriani-Ambrosini, flanked by IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi and IFP caucus chairman Ndlovu Velaphi, released details of his private member’s bill, the Medical Innovation Bill.
“I am here because I am a man of principle. This is not an easy thing to do,” said Oriani-Ambrosini, the day after he used his four minutes in the parliamentary debate on Wednesday to make his call – almost a year after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
“I am now in the 0.01 percent survival rate… Being a politician, paid by the people of South Africa to do a job, it became natural for me (to speak) for those who do not have a voice. The most important thing to do is to remove the legal obstacles.”
His private member’s bill seeks to make it possible to prescribe marijuana, or other alternative treatments, to terminally ill patients. It excludes doctors and patients from possible prosecution, seeks to regulate the use of medical marijuana – “to trade criminal profits into tax for people”, according to Oriani-Ambrosini – while also establishing at least one research hospital for medical treatment innovation.
Published in the Government Gazette on Valentine’s Day, the private member’s bill also sets out a framework for the commercial and industrial uses of cannabis, which is already used in textiles and building materials in a global industry.
“This is my contribution – I don’t want to say last contribution – I hope God will give me the strength… ” said Oriani-Ambrosini, who with his usual self-depreciating wit touched on the consequences of using medicinal dagga.
“There are no side effects except my hair growing curly for the first time in my life. I’m still looking to manage this,” he quipped, adding that he appreciated his glowing skin.
Buthelezi confirmed his support for his MP.
“Dr Ambrosini, we have travelled a long road with him. We have slaughtered many monsters… He has taken on one of the most fearsome monsters at this time.
“I do hope, with God’s help, he will do something not only for himself, because this is not his attitude, but for the whole human race.”
Advocate Robin Stransham-Ford, also a cancer patient on alternative treatment, outlined plans to push for a constitutional challenge to decriminalise dagga for medicinal use next year, but acknowledged Oriani-Ambrosini’s request to try for a political solution.
It is understood the president has already received from Oriani-Ambrosini the large volumes of work of the South African national working group on the medicinal use of marijuana.
Submitted to the government last November, it includes reports on various clinical trials, including several run by US teaching hospitals, on the benefits of medicinal marijuana.