South Africa may legally regulate medical cannabis as soon as April 2017.
The South African Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health has said that the government will amend the Medicines and Related Substances Act 1965 (MRS Act). Under the reformed legislation, cannabis – known locally as “dagga” – will be downgraded from a banned Schedule 7 drug to a Schedule 6 drug, meaning it can be prescribed. The revision of the law is to be drafted by late January 2017 and may be implemented by April 2017, according to South Africa’s News24.
The first step towards the legalisation of medical cannabis in South Africa began in early 2014, when MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini proposed a private members bill, the Medical Innovation Bill (MIB). The MIB would have legalised and regulated medical cannabis, but did not gain sufficient support in parliament.
Months after its failure to pass, Oriani-Ambrosini committed suicide while suffering from chronic pain during the last stages of terminal lung cancer. Within the MIB proposal, he had advocated for cannabis oil as treatment for chronic pain.
In the two years since Oriani-Ambrosini’s death, the South African Medical Control Council has conducted extensive research into medical cannabis. Based on evidence of its medical potential, his party – the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) – has pushed for the reintroduction of the MIB into parliament.
The party’s chief whip, Narend Singh, has expressed that he would consider withdrawing the MIB if the revision of the MRS Act met the objective of the IFP’s bill: effectively regulating access to medical cannabis.