Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Update: Private citizens in South Africa can now be in possession of cannabis for personal use. In September 2018, the South African Supreme Court ruled that any existing laws banning private use of marijuana are unconstitutional and invalid.
The South African government is very close to making legal medical and recreational marijuana a reality. Parliament plans to develop laws based on the Medicines Control Council’s guidelines. Also, a ruling by the Western Cape High Court orders lawful adult-use cannabis within two years.
When marijuana is entirely illegal, patients who need it to relieve their symptoms can’t access it safely and reliably. A lack of regulations and standards also leaves patients guessing whether the cannabis they get will work effectively. Plus, they have to worry about breaking the law the entire time.
By legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis, South Africa will improve the health of all their citizens. Instead of resorting to unreliable street sales, patients can find top-quality medicine that won’t get them in trouble. Even non-patients can benefit by using cannabis as a healthier alternative to alcohol, opioids and other drugs.
Instead of forcing patients to get a medical marijuana card, future laws will integrate cannabis medicine into existing drug laws. You can get a prescription from a doctor just like you would for a painkiller or another drug. Marijuana medicine will be produced according to high standards, and you can get it at a pharmacy.
When adults have permission to use recreational marijuana, patients who don’t have a qualifying condition can medicate with adult-use products. If you don’t mind keeping your medicine at home, you can use and grow it for personal reasons without worry.
Wondering if you qualify for a prescription? Parliament has considered approving patients with certain severe conditions. If you deal with chronic pain from multiple sclerosis, cancer or HIV/AIDS, your doctor can authorize you. Epileptic patients with severe seizures could also count. The government could even add more disorders in the future.
If you do get a prescription from your doctor, you need to keep in touch with them to maintain your treatment. You probably see your physician frequently already if you have a serious enough health problem to get cannabis medicine, but you need to get the most out of those visits.
Actively participating in your medical cannabis treatment involves paying attention to your body. Keep a record of the side effects and symptoms you experience after you start taking your medicine. If something changes or your symptoms worsen, let your doctor know.
Patients who can’t get a prescription and use recreational products instead can be proactive, too. Make sure you see your physician on a regular basis and let them know you medicate with cannabis if you can. Only get your marijuana medicine from trusted sources authorized by the government.
Any medical professional who can already prescribe medications to patients will also have the authority to prescribe medicinal cannabis in South Africa. The law will not require them to go through any extra training to work with the drug. But, a lack of education could reduce cannabis medicine’s availability for patients in need.
In some cases, a physician could refuse to prescribe medical cannabis because they can’t confidently do so. Or, misconceptions might make them prejudice against marijuana. Even if a medical professional approves of cannabis treatment, they can still benefit from more learning on the subject.
Since South Africa has just started its medical cannabis journey, there are bound to be changes ahead. To talk to a government official about upcoming legislation, contact the Medicines Control Council. Remember to also stay tuned to our blog updates for the latest information about international marijuana medicine laws.