How medical marijuana will work in South Africa

The South African Medicines Control Council (MCC) has published draft guidelines for the cultivation and processing of cannabis for medical use in the country.

The 32-page document sets out the exact guidelines the medical and agricultural industry will have to follow if or when medical marijuana is officially legalised in South Africa.

The guidelines speak to existing legislation under the Medicines and Related Substances Act, and set the stage for the Medical Innovation Bill – first proposed by the late Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Ambrosini – which seeks to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis.

A strict process will be followed to make sure that cannabis and cannabis products are only used medically, and everyone – from farmers, employees, doctors and patients – will need to be assessed along the way.

According to the MCC, once the entire process has been passed by all the required stakeholders, applicants will be able to apply to the body for a licence for any or all of the following activities:

  • Cultivate/grow and produce Cannabis and Cannabis resin;
  • Extract and test Cannabis, Cannabis resin and/or cannabinoids;
  • Manufacture a medicine containing cannabinoids.

However, in addition to the licence application to the MCC, applicants will also be required to apply to the Director-General of Health for a permit.

To qualify, applicants will need to pass a suitability test – where their interactions and associations will be considered by the MCC in assessing whether the ‘fit and proper person’ principle is met – and an assessment of employees must also be done.

Those who are looking to get a licence and permit to grow cannabis will also need to ensure the security of their farms, and meet all the requirements to see that the product is not diverted at any stage of the distribution process.

The guidelines do not make marijuana and cannabis legal for any other purposes other than medical use; and doctors that prescribe the product will need to get permission from the department of health to do so, and must keep a tight registry of patients.

There are currently no restrictions on the number of licences that may be issued by the MCC, but the overall quantities of marijuana cannot exceed quotas allocated by the International Narcotics Drug Control Board, it said.

The full guidelines can be read here.

The legislative framework to allow for domestic cultivation of medicinal cannabis is currently under development by the Department of Health in consultation with the MCC.

The draft guidelines are open for public comment until the end of March.

Read: Medical marijuana given green light in South Africa: report

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How medical marijuana will work in South Africa