Johannesburg – As the deadline for public comment on the guideline documents for cultivation of cannabis for medical use looms, an Eastern Cape community is calling for de-scheduling of the plant as a way of exercising total control of the lucrative “green gold” industry.
The Medical Innovations Bill, aimed at legalising the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, was introduced by the late MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini in 2014.
Prince Phumezile Dinwayo, of the Amantlane Traditional Council, at Lusikisiki in Eastern Cape, who is advocating for legalisation of cannabis, said over the years there had been an emergence of a small “but growing body of evidence” suggesting that cannabis may have medicinal value for patients in conditions where other treatments had failed.
“Studies have shown positive effects on a variety of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, dystonia, fibromyalgia, incontinence, gastrointestinal disorders and various cancers,” he said.
The Department of Health, in consultation with the Medicines Control Council (MCC), is developing a legislative framework that would allow for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis.
Dinwayo said this represented opportunities for rural communities in the country as that could lead to job creation, economic stability and growth of the critical agricultural sector, among others.
However, he said their main concern was that cannabis was currently classified as a Schedule 7 drug which had no medicinal value.
“It is important to know that there has never been any reported case of fatality from an overdose of cannabis."
Effectively, cannabis should be de-scheduled and treated as a herbal medicine.
"The law used to schedule it as a Schedule 7 and 6 drug is old and archaic."
"That law was passed in the pre-democratic era."
"When one looks at what qualifies a medicine for those schedules then cannabis doesn’t fit the criteria,” argued Dinwayo.
He described his community as the cannabis capital of Africa, adding that the plant had been cultivated for many centuries and that it grew naturally and organically in the Mpondoland region.
“In response to calls by the government for radical economic transformation, this potential industry’s cultivation and processing of the medicinal cannabis cultivar must be secured for rural communities and create vibrant business for local business."
"The rural communities have won many land claim battles."
"It is imperative that they be allowed to participate freely in the value chain of the medicinal cannabis since they will put their land to good economic use for the benefit and development of their areas and communities,” he said.
MCC law enforcement manager Griffith Molewa said: “The Medical Innovation Bill is still on hold pending the finalisation of the guideline document that was published on the Medicines Control Council website. This document is for public comments."
"Once all the comments have been considered by the MCC and the department, a final document will be published for implementation.”