Lawyers Explain Prescription Cannabis in South Africa

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Lawyers Explain Prescription Cannabis in South Africa

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 So I recently went through the process of getting a medical cannabis prescription within South Africa. That means you are able to purchase cannabis from a dispensary, which is under sharper license, and it was quite an interesting process. But I had a lot of questions and I wanted to get some more information.

I decided to reach out to Dan Marie from Schindler’s Attorneys and they were very grateful to give us some time, and she’s come on and she’s gonna give us a little bit more of an explanation as to whether the whole process is legit, whether it’s not legit, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad. So if you guys like this make sure to stay tuned and I’m sure you will enjoy.

The first question I wanted to ask is, Is this something that is. That the consumers in South Africa can feel safe going through as a, it, it’s fairly new to everyone. Sure. So to answer this question we have to just start at the beginning as always, and that is the fact that Section 21 is not a new process in South Africa under medical law.

So section 21 applications refer to. You and your medical doctor making an application to sarra the South African Health regulatory authority, health products regulatory authority. And then what they do is that they will give you the permission to access an unregistered medication. And that has always been the purpose of a Section 21 and in past, it’s been used last by.

Various patients with cancer or epilepsy, et cetera, to try and get hold of medications. Not really available in South Africa to try and see it assists with their symptoms and diseases. So this has always been part of our law. And then what happened is what we’ve seen in the last few years, and especially opening up in South Africa, is the possibility for you to apply to sarra together with your medical practitioner in order to access.

Cannabis as an unregistered medication. So two important points that you can immediately pick up though is the fact that it’s a joint process between you and your medical doctor. So it’s not something that you can just go to offices for and give them a form. It’s something you do together with your doctor.

And then also it is very much orientated towards medical use. So it’s not for you to apply for recreational purposes. It’s very much orientated towards. Patients. So interestingly enough, the law isn’t that clear cuz it actually says Section 21 can be for any person. But if you actually go onto the section 21 application forms from Sarra, it’s very clear that it refers to patient and medical doctor specifically.

Ah, so is that why a lot of the I have the full disclosure have gone through the process with a doctor just to get a feel of the situation and it was pretty smooth. But I did realize that the. Product or the medicine that you’re getting at the end of the day is it’s not from South Africa.

Yeah. So that’s, that’s been quite an interesting point in South Africa being quite heavily debated actually in the, in the medical pharmaceutical fields and industry at the moment. But that’s exactly it. So it’s focused on, on as an unregistered medication and most of the doctors will try and give you something with a very specific type of spectrum.

So what I mean by that is like, Specific con th HC versus C P D content you know, that sort of thing. And then also the method of application would also generally be prescribed by your doctor based on your condition. Because for example, if you’re dealing with pain, it’ll, it’ll likely be ingested versus if you’re dealing with skin.

Cancer, it’s a live tropical. And then of course your doctor would want to make sure that you get hold of something that they can trust is actually going to do what they, what they’re hoping that it’ll do. So a lot of these products are, for example, really highly concentrated CBD b d products from overseas manufacturers that is in the CBD b register registered c b D manufacturer in, for example, with in the American or UK or EU type of industries and jurisdictions.

And then we import those sort of products with patients for them to then Start their process as well. So is this because they don’t have, because we’ve got li we’ve got medical facilities growing medical cannabis in South Africa, but are they, is it just because it’s not a registered medicine?

Does that why they have to export all of that product? Or, or they hoping to eventually have the local products introduced as a, as a medicine that can be applied under. Section 21. So what happened is in from 2019, what Opera Opera did is, is that it allowed you to apply for what is Section 22 A license.

So that is for you to be a registered and licensed cannabis grower manufacturer in portal export. So depending on WhatsApp of application we do. Mm-hmm. And then these legal cannabis. Cultivation facilities predominantly in the South Africa market is exporting, as you say at the moment, and it’s very much one of four, one of two reasons.

One, the international market is just very, very much active in comparison to South Africa. So there is, especially in the, in the European medical markets, Very, very active at the moment as they start to research cannabis use in medicines very very highly in the pharmaceutical industry. So a lot of these facilities when they applied for their licenses were also only issued their licenses under the impression or the promise that they will actually be utilizing with a standing client.

And at that time, especially around 2019, your only starting client legally was your international market. You. International pharmaceutical companies. Mm. And we do see that slowly changing and we very much hope it will. We really hope that our South licenses will be, have the opportunity to really be the suppliers for the South African market.

I mean, nationally for various reasons. Yeah. But just, you know, the fact that we really want to see local Economy boosts, we wanna see local job creation. And so these things we hope is gonna take place in the future. What really will happen in future with regards to these, these applications and facilities is very much up in the air.

There’s talks about possibly moving cannabis into its own special type of application under a Section 21 A for example. And, Bringing in, introducing a new section just pertaining to cannabis further, alternatively know to be, just cuz to be then call for cannabis to be registered maybe. So these type of questions so that it steps out of the section 21 unregistered medicine domain and steps into the registered medications, which in its fact will also make accessibility a lot easier as we’ve just discussed.

Yeah. Cause once it’s a registered medication, it’s so much easier for South African manufacturers to jump on board as well. It can’t be cheap importing product as well into the country, flying it in. Probably a lot of legis, you know shipping paperwork and things like that. So it’s, I can imagine there’s gonna be cost saving for the consumer at the end of it.

Are we in a position that California was sort of six, seven years ago when there was the, the medical cards going around and they started introducing it and. I don’t wanna draw, draw down on, on what Shopper is doing or any of the businesses, but it was taken in the States as a, it was, the system was manipulated in a way to just sort of achieve recreational cannabis.

I don’t think we are there yet. It doesn’t look like the same, quite the same images they had. But do you think it’s going to. Go that way? Or, or are they actively trying to not have that done? It’s an interesting question because I think at the end of the day one, the American legal system with regards to cannabis is absolute failure.

I think that’s no, no secret. Many, many of their, their role players have admitted to so much because it’s, as you mentioned, it’s really just one big manipulator to create a recreational market. In some sort of legal way. I do also think we’re in a very unique position in South Africa, and what I mean by that is, is that our recreational rights were actually recognized in advance of our medical rights, which is makes us very different to other jurisdictions.

Mm-hmm. And true. What we as cannabis activists and communities are pushing for is, For there to remain a distinction because in my mind, especially, you know, if I’m a medical patient and I am looking for a medical product, I would love for that to be at a specific standard for it to be stable, for it to always be exactly what I want and needed to be at as a medication.

But for my recreational use, I don’t necessarily need such high standards to be applied. It’s not that I’m. Trying to treat an illness, I’m using it, you know, as an adult in my own free time of mind free. Well, and that changes things a lot. And it should naturally also change the standards to which these products apply because the more standards, the more paperwork, the more expensive as you just stated, you know, and a section 21 is not necessarily a, a cheap route for you to access cannabis.

I think if you so for, for our for our viewers in South Africa, you know, I do. Honestly believe it’s cheaper for you to rely on your recreational rights, grow your own, in your own private space than it is for you to go first. Section 21. What I do pick up, however, is that inside Africa with this gray area of law at the moment, it creates a lot of uncertainty and uncertainty creates fear.

And what we find is that a lot of people are trying to access cannabis card section 21 applications simply for the reason that they are fearing the police, that they’re fearing that they’ll get stopped or questioned about their medical about their cannabis use. And at least they can then provide a medical card or a medical provision that states they’re entitled to that.

They feel a little bit safer as users in that regard. But that’s not the ideal. We don’t wanna be in a position where people have to. Pay to have their rights recognized. We rather would be in a position where medical patients feel safe enough to walk around with their cannabis regardless if they’ve got a medical card on them.

And for recreational and private adult users to be in a position where they can freely use such in privates and in their private space. It irritates me because you’re, you’re so right that it is that that element of. I know a lot of like I was just recalling back at the expo and a lot of people were talking about just the main benefit of getting one of these.

Cuz you do, you get a, if you go through the process, you get a generally a sharp document with a letterhead and your name on it and your doctor’s signature and such and such. And essentially you can now carry that. With you. And then if you have recreational product, I think people are just gonna fall back and be like, oh, but here’s my, my prescription.

And you know, and then coping that the, the, but even then, if you have recreational weed, you shouldn’t be getting in trouble anyway. You know, as long as it’s within, within your, your within reasonable proportions and things like that. So it’s, but people are now still feeling unsafe cuz of all the arrests and such like that.

So am I right in saying, The, the, there’s no guarantee having one of these sharper medical printouts is going to, the police aren’t going to. Pursue an arrest on you? Whether or not, I mean, it’s a very vague question. Fortunately. I mean, Andrea, I, I think we say to each other, you know, unfortunately in South Africa we have seen some abuse of power from the police specific to cannabis users for various reasons.

But at the end of the day, you know, it is exactly like you say, it’s nothing at this point really is a guarantee because as long as cannabis remains in the drugs act, The police have some type of authoritarian legislation under which they can arrest you. So only one’s cannabis is removed from the drug act.

Do they lose that authoritarian legislation and they rely, need to rely on something else. And the question is, you know, when will that happen and when will you know this be the case? The community’s been calling for moratoriums on arrest form years now since the 2018 judgment asking us. And asking, you know, and us asking government, then please like, stop the arrests or at alternatively just make an interim very good, strong guideline that that applies to everybody, so that the discretion is not utilized by police every time because it’s that discretion that is creating that abuse of power and the opportunity for abuse of power, you know?

So I think it’s a lot easier for us to, you know, stand up for our rights when our rights are clear where this, yeah. You know, because of everything going on, it’s not so clear. And I think also for medical patients, you know, with this, this piece of paperwork You know, often the police are not necessarily completely apprised of what a Section 21 is, so they might not even know what you’re trying to show them, and that might even create a bigger issue at the end of the day for you trying to explain yourself and they’re not understanding you.

So at the end of the day, it’s more important for us to focus as a community to getting our rights. Properly engaged and and understood that it is at this point for you to not, or not apply for a Section 21 so you can have that piece of a paper in your hand. Cuz like I said, we are in this unique situation where you actually mean to have your recreational rights and when patients should have their separate rights under a Section 21.

Short question, are they allowing the Section 21 cannabis licenses to be granted to two kids? To minors? Yes, absolutely there are. And there’s some really exciting work being done by medical practitioners inside Africa. So we currently, if I’m correct, I think it’s two clinical trials could be more.

I’m aware of two clinical trials inside Africa at the moment with cannabis, which includes child patients. And we are aware of children who has applied successfully under section 21 and treating the illnesses and diseases. And that’s also really important distinction to understand because in law inside Africa, your recreational ride, Only starts and commences as an adult.

Mm-hmm. So you cannot recreationally provide your child at this point in time with cannabis, even if it’s for health reasons, et cetera. Technically at this point, it’s illegal where if you are providing it for your child with a medical practitioner under a section 21, they are fully entitled to be recognized as a patient.

Oh, that’s wonderful. And then in sort of closing is there something that you would. Would like shopper to be doing differently with regards to their outline and their plan going forward with these medical licenses tightening up controls or loosening up controls or just a whole different angle in entirely?

Yeah. I think Sarra has really been in media for, from the cannabis community for a while now. Some have really criticized them heavily as being guard dogs. Of the actual cannabis industry needing to develop. But at the end of the day we currently start of how important cprs job is. Cprs job is to make sure that the medications, which is the suspense to you by medical practitioners and pharmacists or safe products.

And I think that’s really important job and we can’t downplay that. That being said, however I personally would love to see that a separate and individual process be developed for cannabis alternative for it to become a registered medication simply also because we are concerned about abuse of Section 21.

And we are also a bit worried about section 21 application also getting congested with regards to patients who’s applying for really serious medical issues. And those who are. I’m using cannabis as an alternative medication right now. So to us there’s a distinction. We want cancer patients and these sorts of people to quickly access whatever they need under section 21 and not get for section 21 applications to congest the process because and for rather to become a registered medicine, offer its own process to apply it all.

And also I think by them giving it the sufficient attention it needs in that regard. We’ll also, Then open up the opportunity for them to bring in rules that you might have to use South African registered facility and product. You know, like, let’s see how far we can push this. In terms of supporting local and really getting so the South African economy up and going.

But right now for us just the dedication to seeing how they can mainstream this process for patients, and don’t get me wrong the, the feedback we’ve received so far is that Sarra is really quick with the section 20 ones. They. Very professional, very quick turnaround time. So we have to compliment there with regards to that.

But we would like for it also to see it becoming more of a norm in its own standardized process as this really foreign, or not foreign, but really extra and excessive process for you to, to apply for an unregistered medication. Because just by the way that also brings certain requirements in with it.

So your doctor can’t just go, we wanna give her this. Just try it. You know, you actually then blocked also has to report back to cpr and your medical doctor’s meant to give some feedback to CPR to say the medication’s working. We are monitoring, it’s not working. The patient died. Whatever the process is, they have to follow their processes also to report back.

So and then to question, you know, is it necessary? Is it really that strictly required for doctors to report back on cannabis use, or does it, you know, possibly carry so little chances of harm that we don’t have to have such an excessive process. We can rather have its own process. So these sorts of things are, are very debatable and we’d love to see it taking.

It’s getting the attention it needs. Geez. Yeah. I just, I had like a nightmare imagination when you said the, the section 21 process getting congested you know, like the, the driver’s license situation at the moment where it’s, you know, they just unable to register cards. I mean, imagine that’s now you’re not able to register foreign imported medicines or foreign imported medical devices or, or however far the, the scope of the, the.

Policy extends it. It just could be a really, really severe consequence for people desperately and in need. And it’s unfortunate that we have to be in that position to even, that some people may want to abuse that, that process in the eyes of the law. But I, I also think. There’s reason to believe that it’s not abuse, it’s kind of just getting what may be that probably should be in our, our rights anyway.

But yeah, I really appreciate the information today. I think we can dive into this quite deep again in future and always appreciate it and thank you so much.


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