MCC warns marijuana remains illegal despite availability of products
While the use of dagga is illegal in SA, products containing the drug for medicinal purposes are starting to proliferate. But most of these are illegal‚ said the Medicines Control Council (MCC).
The Department of Health is working to have dagga legally recognised as a prescription drug under controlled circumstances and permits to cultivate and supply the drug are likely to be issued only in the first half of next year.
But some products are already on the market and the latest to go on sale in the country are Rick Simpson’s Oil and Charlotte’s Web‚ two organic solutions that contain THC‚ the psychoactive ingredient in dagga.
Cape Town online resource for medicinal cannabis‚ the Medical Cannabis Dispensary‚ said the products could be used to treat a host of ailments‚ including cancer‚ arthritis‚ diabetes‚ leukaemia‚ osteoporosis‚ Crohn’s disease‚ insomnia‚ migraines and depression.
Mark (a pseudonym)‚ said he had used Rick Simpson’s Oil.
"I’ve been using the oil for sleep. I stopped taking sleeping pills and I can now focus‚" he said.
"The oil is [an] across-the-board medicine. It balances everything out. It’s made me drink less.
"I don’t find it addictive. If I don’t want to take it‚ I don’t.
"You can put it in food‚ on a sandwich or on a biscuit. The effects last about eight hours and it costs R500-R2‚000."
The Medical Cannabis Dispensary claimed that Rick Simpson’s Oil had been tested at 40%-65% THC‚ which many experts say might be the highest concentration available anywhere. It said Charlotte’s Web was ideal for people trying to avoid the "high" effects of THC.
MCC registrar Dr Joey Gouws said she was unaware of the new products.
"Products may contain THC provided that the concentration is below 0.001% and there is no evidence of seed.
"If the product claims to treat a medical condition‚ then even if the THC complies‚ the product is illegal as the MCC has not registered it‚" said Gouws.
She said the council would have to investigate the exact status of the products from the Medical Cannabis Dispensary‚ adding that those behind the company could face prosecution.
MCC chairman prof Helen Rees said dagga was a schedule 7 substance and was subject to restrictions and control.
"It is illegal to cultivate‚ analyse‚ possess‚ research‚ use‚ sell or supply cannabis without authorisation from the Department of Health."
Rees said medical practitioners needed to apply to the council for permission to access and prescribe unregistered medicines, including dagga, for their patients "in certain exceptional circumstances".
"Medical cannabis products may thus be made available to specific patients under medical supervision‚" Rees said.