Tag Archive | marijuana

Parliament puts use of cannabis on hold

Evidence on cannabis needed…

cannabis drinksFor the moment at least, the possibility of the legal medical use of cannabis by injection or oral dose, the medical manner in which drugs are used to reduce pain and suffering, is out of the question.    This was decided at parliamentary portfolio committee level recently, the matter not going for vote or recommended for passage to the National Assembly.

Nevertheless this does not mean, in the long term, that the matter has been totally rejected by Parliament. IFP member, Dr. Narend Singh, in the last meeting of the portfolio committee on health before the recent short recess, introduced a Private Members Bill known as the Medical Innovation Bill.

Despite the Bill at this stage having been rejected at this stage by the committee, many tributes were paid to the late Dr. Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, IFP, who had tabled the idea in the last Parliament and formulated the original wording.

Basics first

Parliament, after debate at committee level, has suggested that more international opinion on the subject is garnered and the results of any further medical research is considered before parliamentarians are asked to consider laws on the subject.   They concluded that regulations, following such a law, would be difficult to enforce; that more work had to be done on broad legal considerations and that decisions, which would be difficult, must not be based upon emotion but empirical evidence.

Considerably more public and professional opinion locally had to be sought as well, they said, but the door was not closed on the issue. Most MPs referred to the possible unintended consequences of such a law where the legal use of such powerful drugs entering into the crime world and general abuse by habitual drug users was a distinct possibility.

Implementation of a change in government health policy towards cannabis, commonly referred to as marijuana, is allowed by the proposed Bill with a change at law to the approach in the treatment of cancer and other incurable diseases suggested.

Best practice guides

Existing treatments alongside such “innovative complementary therapies” were recommended to be administered only at “nominated medical treatment research centres”. The Bill, amongst its objectives, proposed to “codify existing best-practices to allow decisions by medical practitioners to innovate in cases where evidence-based treatment or management is not optimal or appropriate or because the available evidence is insufficient or uncertain.”

The Bill also seeks to “deter reckless, illogical and unreasonable departure from standard practice and legalise and regulate the use of cannabinoids for medical purposes and for beneficial commercial and industrial uses.”

Underworld the enemy 

The DA opposition stance on the issue was that despite the possible treatment properties for cancer, any such drug when ingested as a food into the stomach could lead to severe addiction and therefore much criminal abuse if such a manner of formulation became accessible via the underworld to the wider public.

Dr W James (DA) said the Bill was really about innovative approaches to cure and treat and consequently any parliamentary debate had to be about medical innovation as such.   Referring obviously to cancer he said, “in terms of molecular cell biology, a cure had to prevent the problem from re-occurring.  Unfortunately, science in terms of finding a cure as such had not advanced in the case of cancer.”  Therefore treatment, he said, was a completely different subject for consideration, especially in the case of cancer.

Consensus across party lines indicated that whilst the proposals would legitimise the intended purpose of alleviating the pain and suffering of patients, with such a change would also come the import or local manufacture of cannabis for medical purposes in terms of commerce, with a consequent difficult accompanying regulatory process.

Input needed

Bearing in mind the unintended consequences of such a proposal, MPs generally felt there had to be a lot more professional opinion on the subject. Parliament was not the forum for such a debate, at least not without more input from science-based research and advice on the subject of how to regulate, it was decided.

Finally, it was felt that the medical profession should be the final arbiters on scientific exactitudes and whether such an innovation should be adopted and how. Only then should the proposals be considered by Parliament. One ANC member remarked that “as South Africa was a highly opinionated nation such a matter should be opened up much more for more public consultation and advice.”

Dr. Narend Singh, when asked if he was dissapointed that the Bill had been rejected at this stage, replied that the tabling of the Bill had been part of a process. “The matter is now on the backburner”, he said, “I am very happy that  this should be the case. I would have be most surprised if matters had gone further at this stage. We will hear more though in due course, now that we have laid a foundation”.

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