The University of the Free State's Professor Motlalepula Matsabisa and staff showcasing traditional medicine at the ongoing Science Forum South African Innovation Bridge 2019 (SFSAIB) in Pretoria. Photo: ANA.

PRETORIA - The medicinal benefits of cannabis have not been fully utilised in South Africa and it could impact many people, the University of Free State's Professor Motlalepula Matsabisa said on Thursday.

"With cannabis it has been really a plant that has not been given justice. In its long history, in the past people did not understand the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Cannabis was seen as a plant used by Rastas, but in fact the Rastas have been using cannabis for rituals and medicinal purposes. There was a total misinterpretation on the potential benefits of cannabis," Matsabisa told African News Agency at the ongoing Science Forum South African Innovation Bridge 2019 (SFSAIB) in Pretoria.

"I didn't come here to preach, saying cannabis does not or may not have side effects. Like any other drug, it would have side effects. For every other medication, there needs to be rationale use. We need to begin to study cannabis systematically and try to derive maximum benefits out of it."

He said the University of the Free State is using the science forum, attended by thousands of scholars and enthusiasts from different parts of the world, to showcase medicine and research particularly from natural products and medicinal plants.

"We work on cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and mental problems. All we do is based on traditional knowledge, traditional medicines and medicinal plants. Throughout this week we have been showcasing some of the products that we have developed from cannabis, and some we have developed from our indigenous teas. Our people have been using plants as health teas, but these have not been developed so that they get into formal economies," said Matsabisa.

"We have done science to back those teas up in terms of their nutrition, safety and also in terms of their quality. The other thing we have also showcased is our research on the medicinal cannabis. There are potential benefits for the medicinal use of cannabis. 

"When cannabis is regulated properly, we want to develop an industry in this country. An industry that is inclusive to the original people, our indigenous people who have been incarcerated, taken to jail for their conviction and belief in the medicinal use of cannabis." 

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande addressed the thousands of delegates from different parts of the world who have converged in Pretoria for the apex science forum. 

This year, the Innovation Bridge (IB) a technology matchmaking and showcasing event, and the Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) - previously separate events - have joined forces to in a bid to serve the South African innovation ecosystem. The IB and the SFSA are taking place under one roof at the CSIR's International Conference Centre in Pretoria under the theme: Igniting Conversations About Science For Innovation With Impact.

African News Agency (ANA)