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Jhb High Court Accuses THC Pharmacy in Glenanda, Gauteng of Being a Medical Cannabis ‘Script Mill’

Jhb High Court Accuses THC Pharmacy in Glenanda, Gauteng of Being a Medical Cannabis ‘Script Mill’

The same court that declared SAPS first cannabis seizure at the pharmacy last May was unlawful, it has given authorities a double dip at the pharmacy and has given SAHPRA powers of seizure for non-compliance and wants a new inspection to be coducted next Wednesday.

Jan Cronje, News 24.

17 April 2024 at 10:00:00

This report from News 24.com, publishd on 16 April 2024.


The Johannesburg High Court has ordered police to return a large quantity of cannabis seized from a pharmacy in Johannesburg, saying the medical cannabis, edibles, pre-rolled joints and more were seized without a warrant.


The case deals with the rise of pharmacies which only stock cannabis-related products and use doctors to write scripts for Schedule 6 medicines, which are usually heavily regulated.


While the police's seizure of the cannabis products in May 2023 was ruled to be unlawful, the Johannesburg High Court stopped short of ordering that all the goods be returned directly to the pharmacy.


Instead, the court ruled that the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) could have a second bite of the apple.


From Wednesday, the regulator will have a five-day window of opportunity to conduct its own seizure of the cannabis products that are currently in the possession of the police. The SAPS will then have another five days to return any items that have not been seized to the pharmacy.


Acting Judge Vlad Movshovich relied on arguments made by the SAHPRA and the South African Pharmacy Council that the THC Pharmacy in Glenanda was acting like a script mill. 


Editors note: (THC Pharmacy is completely unrelated to The Haze Club, which is facing its own legal woes).


The judge found that while SAPS had conducted an unlawful seizure, there was no reason SAHPRA could not use its broad powers under the Medicines and Related Substances Act to have a second go at seizing the goods.


Casing the joint


The cannabis products were confiscated by police in May last year, after SAHPRA and the SA Pharmacy Council conducted what appears to have been a routine inspection.


The THC Pharmacy opened in Glenanda in the south of Johannesburg in early 2022. Shortly after it started dispensing cannabis products, its CEO Kyle Brocklebank described it to the Sunday Times as an "educational platform" that wanted to "remove the stigma of dagga". While it is licensed to operate as a community pharmacy, the pharmacy only stocks cannabis-related goods, such as cannabis toffees and gums, buds and "pre-rolled" joints, as well as skin and beauty care products.


The inspectors concluded the pharmacy had broken a host of laws, including the unlawful manufacturing of medicines on its premises, a failure to keep proper records, and breaches of rules governing repeat prescriptions.


During their inspection, they found 20-litre buckets full of cannabis buds. "Non-qualified" workers were busy stuffing the buds into small unlabelled plastic bags after weighing the product on kitchen scales. Some of the bags were lying on the pharmacy's floor.


The SAHPRA inspectors also found that doctors' scripts had been pre-written and signed six months in advance, some with no patient details. All 700 scripts were written by the same doctor, who did not conduct in-person consultations and did his via video calls.


"The doctor was told that he is not allowed to write prescriptions in advance and also [that] no repeats are allowed for Schedule 6 substances. The doctor was also questioned how […] he diagnosed the patient online without physically examining patients," states a section of the report published by the watchdog.


SA law states that Schedule 6 substances need "close medical management and supervision and strict control". Only registered pharmacists should handle them, and they may not be advertised directly to the public.


The inspectors found the breaches so egregious that they immediately called the police rather than confiscate the goods themselves. Police soon arrived and proceeded to seize the products.


In an affidavit submitted to court, the SAPS said its officers explained to the pharmacy that it was illegal to buy cannabis "in bulk" and repackage it.


The pharmacy, meanwhile, argued its rights had been infringed and that the seized goods should be returned.


In his ruling, Judge Movshovich said there were good reasons that warrantless seizure was an "exception" in SA law.


"Our courts have emphasised that, should any seizure of property be contemplated, police officials should obtain a warrant, if this is at all possible."


He found that the SAPS had not made out a case that its seizure was legal.


Police only described the reasons behind the seizure in "vague generalities" without explaining what laws had been broken.


"[The affidavit] falls short of what is required and what is expected," he said, adding that the police's arguments appeared to show a lack of interest in the case."

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