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Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Cannabis in South Africa

Content supplied by Medical Cannabis 

What is cannabis?

The term cannabis is widely used to refer to any plant in the genus Cannabis including dried flowers and leaves (marijuana/dagga), seeds, extracts and resins. Between 60 and 100 chemicals called cannabinoids and some 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals are produced by the cannabis plant.

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main cannabinoid responsible for the ‘high’ and psychoactive effects produced by cannabis, and the reason for recreational use as an illicit drug. Despite this THC does provide many medicinal uses and treatment options. For more information on Cannabis please CLICK HERE.


What is medicinal cannabis?

The main cannabinoids studied and currently thought to be the most important for medical use are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Many other cannabinoids exist and a number are being researched for possible medical use.

The term ‘medicinal cannabis products’ covers a range of approved, quality assured cannabis preparations intended for human therapeutic use, including pharmaceutical cannabis preparations such as tablets, oils, tinctures and other extracts.

Crude cannabis is difficult for doctors to prescribe because the specific components (chemicals known as cannabinoids), the dose and potency in each plant is not tested or known.

Pharmaceutical preparations of cannabis contain specific active components in known amounts and mixtures, which optimise the therapeutic benefit and minimise side effects. The dose and strength of the preparation can be controlled and standardised, making it safer for patients to use.

The South African Department of Health regulates medicinal cannabis products through the Section 21 application process. See further down for the link to apply for Medical Cannabis or CLICK HERE.


What are the benefits of medicinal cannabis?

There is little high quality research on the benefits of medicinal cannabis and the clinical evidence for its role is still under discussion and being investigated.

Medicinal cannabis preparations have been used with some reported success to relieve symptoms in some specific conditions, such as reducing spasticity and muscle pain in people with multiple sclerosis.

There is also some evidence that medicinal cannabis may be useful in treating seizures, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and also as an appetite stimulant for people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or cancer.

We encourage you to speak to your doctor regarding the benefits of using Medical Cannabis in South Africa.


What are the side effects of medicinal cannabis?

It is important that medicinal cannabis is only used under medical supervision because it may interact with other medicines a patient is taking or cause adverse reactions.

The known side-effects from medicinal cannabis treatment (both CBD and THC) include fatigue and sedation, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, fever, decreased or increased appetite, dry mouth, and diarrhoea.

THC (and products high in THC) have been associated with feeling high or feeling dissatisfied, depression, confusion, hallucinations, paranoid delusions, psychosis, and cognitive distortion (having thoughts that are not true).

For more information on the side effects of Cannabis/Marijuana/Dagga in South Africa please CLICK HERE.


What is the current legal status of medicinal cannabis?

Currently, Cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 6 substance.

Practitioners in South Africa can legally prescribe medicinal cannabis products with approval from the DOH and SAHPRA via the Section 21 application route.

Medicinal cannabis is lawful when the cultivation, manufacture, prescribing, and supply complies with the guidelines set out by the MCC/SAHPRA as instructed by the DOH.


What about CBD/Cannabidiol?

One cannabis derivative, cannabidiol (also known as CBD), in products for therapeutic use containing 1% or less of other cannabinoids found in cannabis, has been made a Schedule 4 medicine. The total cannabinoids in the product must be at least 99% cannabidiol to be in Schedule 4.

There are no registered cannabidiol medicines in South Africa. Supply of unregistered Schedule 4 cannabidiol medicines requires a prescription from a medical practitioner and must be dispensed at pharmacy level. For more information on this scheduling of Cannabidiol in South Africa please CLICK HERE.


Who can prescribe medicinal cannabis?

The conditions for which medicinal cannabis might be considered will likely be complex medical conditions and as such, prescribing of medicinal cannabis is restricted in South Africa to specialist medical practitioners with expertise in the management of the disease being treated. In certain circumstances, authority may be granted to a general practitioner where written support for treatment is provided by the patient’s treating specialist. This is done via the Section 21 application route. Please CLICK HERE.


Is there a list of doctors who can prescribe medicinal cannabis?

South African doctors are not allowed to advertise to the public that they are able to prescribe a particular medicine. Furthermore, for privacy reasons we do not publish or provide the names of doctors who prescribe medicinal cannabis products. Please speak to your doctor and make them aware of the change in scheduling and the fact that they can now legally prescribe medical cannabis via the completed Section 21 application form.


Can I drive while being treated with medicinal cannabis?

Patients should not drive or operate machinery while being treated with medicinal cannabis. In addition measurable concentrations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive substance in cannabis) can be detected in urine many days after the last dose. It may take up to five days for 80 to 90 per cent of the dose to be excreted. Drug-driving is a criminal offence, and patients should discuss the implications for safe and legal driving with their doctor.


Can I import a product over the internet or by post?

Personal import of medicinal cannabis products is not permitted. If you are wanting to buy Cannabis Oil or CBD Oil in South Africa please consult with your doctor.


How do I get a licence to legally grow or sell Cannabis in South Africa?

If you are wanting to get a licence to cultivate, manufacture or distribute Cannabis in South Africa for medicinal use then you will need to complete the Section 21 application form and submit it to the MCC – Medicines Control Council of South Africa, now known as SAHPRA – South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.

You can view and download the Section 21 application to apply for a licence to cultivate and/or research Cannabis here 

Can I buy cannabis plant material or cannabis oil?

No it is illegal to buy Cannabis plant material or Cannabis oil without a prescription from your doctor.

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