Brett Hilton Barber
Purchasing medical cannabis was still illegal
The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill would outlaw the purchase of cannabis under the SAHPRA-endorsed Section 21 pilot projects. This absurdity was laid bare before Parliament on 24 May 2022 by Doron Isaacs of Karoo Bioscience.
He told members of the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee that although the Bill had been amended specifically to include the legal exchange of medical cannabis, purchasing medical cannabis was still illegal.
The Section 21 company framework allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis and provides a license to the patient allowing them to purchase the prescribed amounts of cannabis from a SAHPRA licensed facility.
In his public submission to Parliament, Isaacs said there were improvements in the new Bill but there was a glaring flaw in the way it treated medical cannabis.
“The main restriction is that even if you have a medical cannabis prescription you can’t buy it” said Isaacs. “The Bill should permit the purchase by medical users of cannabis from licensed SAHPRA facilities. However, SAHPRA licence-holders are only allowed to export their production and are not allowed to sell locally”.
Senior State law advisor Sarel Robbertse chose not to respond to the input, and was having his own connectivity issues in the meeting, but undertook to make revisions to the Bill by 31 May 2022 when the committee is due to meet again.
Another SAHPRA-related enigma was pointed out by lawyer Ricky Stone, director of the Umzimvubu Farmers Support Network, who criticized the Bill as “piecemeal legislation riddled with many contradictions” that should be scrapped and replaced by an all-embracing cannabis law.
“For instance, SAHPRA currently licenses cultivation, but nowhere does that appear in the Medicines Act from which SAHPRA draws its mandate” he said.
Stone also told Parliament that he had evidence that certain SAHPRA-licensed cultivators in three provinces were illegally dumping cannabis flower they could not export onto the local illegal market.