When it comes to medical marijuana in South Africa, we’re still in a huge gray area. Like with laws regarding legalization, while the old laws have been wiped out and deemed unconstitutional, there still remains a process to institute new laws in their place.
As a result, no one is all too clear on the situation regarding medical cannabis in South Africa. There are, however, a few things we know. There’s a dispensary, and that’s a start. There are also processes which have been made available to apply to use medical marijuana, or grow and supply it to patients.
In this article we’re going to unpack some of the confusing aspects around medical marijuana in South Africa, and help you find a way to your nearest dispensary, or prescription.
The Holistic Releaf Wellness and Pain Management Center in Durban has been touted as South Africa’s first Medical Cannabis Dispensary. In fact, it’s also the first official Medical Cannabis Dispensary in South Africa.
It’s located in Durban North, and they sell a number of products made from Cannabis for a variety of illnesses and ailments from pain, to anxiety, stress, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep issues and muscle pain. The center sports a host of local and international cannabis products, as well as having in-house traditional healing and physiotherapy.
However, there’s one interesting thing about this dispensary that many seem to miss. While it’s technically a medical cannabis dispensary, it’s not licensed as one – in the sense of ‘a medical treatment center using cannabis’. In fact, they’re operating under South Africa’s laws that protect traditional healers.
With cannabis having had a long history in South Africa, part of the Traditional Healers medical certificate (introduced in 2017 to help regulate and protect traditional healers of all kinds) includes the right to use and prescribe cannabis. This means that legally, the Holistic Releaf Center is seen as a traditional healer’s practice rather than a medical practice.
This is a very smart way around the regulations and laws surrounding medical cannabis, and as far as we’re concerned it was a great move by the Holistic Releaf team. After all, they’re trying to help break the stigma around cannabis, and medical cannabis use by being completely open and in the public eye.
Cannabis Oil has become a popular treatment for cancer, both legally and illegally, thanks to Rick Simpson’s incredible discoveries around his self-made and self-administered Cannabis Oil. However, since it’s a product made from intoxicating cannabis (ie. not hemp or CBD bud), it’s technically still illegal to buy or sell according to South African law.
This means that the only legal way to procure medical cannabis oil of the ‘full spectrum’ variety (ie. a weed concentrate, and not a CBD extract) would be to make it yourself at home, with plants you grew privately for personal use.
Luckily, we’ve put together a guide on how to make full extract cannabis oil at home, to help you seek the treatment you need. Not only is this oil a great medicine for sleep, pain, appetite, hunger, and seemingly cancer; but it’s also a great alternative to smoking weed recreationally. Simply eat a drop of the oil and wait an hour or two for the effects to set in.
CBD Oil is also somewhat of a grey area, however it’s seemingly legal as most of it is made from hemp, a legal subspecies of cannabis which has a THC content of 0.3% or less.
You can buy CBD oil online from a number of online shops at the moment, as well as many health and wellness centers – including, of course, the Holistic Releaf Wellness and Pain Management Center.
In 2017, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) South Africa made it possible for those needing treatment, or looking to treat someone else, using medical cannabis to apply for licenses.
These licenses cover a variety of things such as importing foreign cannabis products, using and prescribing these products. They also cover the options of growing or cultivating for personal medical use, or that of your patients.
These licenses are available through the joint commission of the MCC and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). They’re a little confusing and are likely still subject to change and reformatting, although they’re a start.
56 People have been licensed so far, with a few more pending, and these first applicants are being used somewhat as a testing grounds for the application and regulation process. It seems both the MCC are SAHPRA truly are looking for ways to make medical cannabis work in South Africa, in a way that works for the home grower or user and not simply for big corporations.
The application forms can be found here, and any associated informational documents can be found on the SAHPRA and MCC websites, or through their respective press releases.
Lastly, if you’re looking to grow your own strains of cannabis that are suited to medical use, you’ve come to the right place. Just the other day we put together this guide to buying cannabis seeds in South Africa.
Locally, Biltong and Budz has a number of CBD strain seeds available for purchase – the kind of seeds that were not very commonly imported during prohibition in South Africa. These strains would be ideal for those seeking cannabis-based relief, only without the high or with a very, very mild high thanks to low THC content in these strains.
Alternately, if you’re looking at buying from overseas then Dinafem is your best bet. They have some amazing, popular strains like Cheese and Kush in CBD variety, some with 1:1 THC ratios, and others with very low THC content. These CBD strains could also be used to make a more medical, less-intoxicating full extract cannabis oil for self-medication and treatment.
In essence, the medical cannabis market in South Africa is just getting on its feet. It’s a bit of a money grab at the moment, with many big companies trying to formulate strategies for taking over the market, however, it’s all convoluted and confusing since no one seems quite clear on what’s legal and illegal yet, medically.
We hope that we’ll reach clarity sooner rather than later, and it’ll put a lot of minds to rest knowing they’re not going to jail for using cannabis medicinally. After all, it’s one of the oldest medicines known to humans and really only makes sense to allow people to use it as they please.