South Africa is one giant step closer to legalizing marijuana, known as “dagga,” as the Department of Health moves forward to recognize the plant as prescription medication rather than a banned substance.
According to an article originally published by the Cape Argus newspaper in Cape Town, South Africa, the Medical Control Council (MCC) told Members of Parliament (MPs) it has “made progress in its investigation into the medicinal use of cannabis.”
MCC registrar Dr. Joey Gouws told the National Assembly committee on health it could start issuing permits for controlled cultivation and supply of high quality medicinal cannabis by February 2017, when the council is expected to publish the regulations.
One proposal by the MCC is to amend the Medicines and Related Substances Act, which has always permitted the use of cannabis for research purposes. However, it has remained illegal for medicinal use. The regulation would downgrade cannabis from a Schedule 7 banned substance to a Schedule 6 prescription drug.
The council briefing comes in the wake of the proposed Medical Innovation Bill that seeks to “pave the way for research and approval of alternative medicines to treat cancer and other terminal illnesses.” The briefing also citing the healing properties of cannabis as an inexpensive alternative to rising healthcare costs.
Members of Parliament appear to overwhelmingly support the MCC’s research citing “remarkable progress” in its aim to legalize cannabis. The IFP’s (Inkatha Freedom Party) chief whip Narend Singh says the party would withdraw its tabling of the Medical Innovations Bill if new regulations met the bill’s objectives.
“What I would like to see is that cannabis products should be made available to all, including the poor,” Singh declared. “At the moment, these drugs are available on the black market and are very expensive.”
The decision has led to one of the first nation-wide efforts to make cannabis available for medical use. This is yet another step in the direction of worldwide decriminalization of marijuana.