ANC's joint venture
The ANC has opened the door for dagga to be legalised ... but only for medical purposes.
Yesterday, ANC chief whip Stone Sizani tabled a motion in the National Assembly that paves the way for the Medical Innovation Bill to be revived and processed afresh by parliament.
This was after the bill lapsed when its original sponsor, IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, died last month after a long battle with lung cancer.
The bill makes provision "for innovation in medical treatment and to legalise the use of cannabinoids for medical purposes and beneficial commercial and industrial uses".
Cannabinoids are described as any part or chemical constituent of the plant known as cannabis, marijuana or dagga.
If the bill is approved in its current form, the minister of health must "within three months identify and authorise at least one pilot health centre which shall have the capacity of treating a minimum of 100 patients at any given time".
Sizani's spokesman, Moloto Mothapo, insisted that the revival of the bill by the ANC chief whip did not necessarily mean the party supported the legalisation of dagga as a medical drug but said it deserved the consideration of parliament.
Mothapo said his party's position would be articulated during the processing of the bill in the next few months.
"We respect the right of MPs to introduce this [proposed] legislation and believe that the Ambrosini bill deserves consideration of parliament.
"It's a matter of it being subjected to a parliamentary process so that formal views can be expressed on it by all political parties and the public so that at the end parliament can then decide if it's worthy of becoming a law or not."
In terms of the rules of the National Assembly, a bill lapses when the MP who proposed it ceases to be a member of the house or dies.
But Sizani's motion, which was supported by all parties, proposed that such rules be suspended in relation to Ambrosini's bill.
This means IFP MP Narend Singh would now take over as the sponsor of the bill.
Sizani's motion has called for public submissions on the bill to be sent to the portfolio committee on health for consideration.
Ambrosini died calling for medicinal use of dagga to treat cancer and its effects.
It is generally understood that he was taking it in oil form as part of his medical treatment before he died.
He had made it known that his use of illegally administered marijuana had kept him alive much longer than conventional medical science would have.
Ambrosini made the impassioned plea during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation debate in February.
At the time, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced he would commission research to look into the feasibility of decriminalising the use of dagga for medical reasons.
If the bill is passed, South Africa will join some states in the US, as well as Amsterdam, in legalising it.
In the US, two states -- Colorado and Washington - have legalised both recreational and medical marijuana uses.
In Colorado, it is legal to carry up to 28g of dagga and for a private user to grow up to six plants. Washington only allows private growers to cultivate dagga for medical use.
In Amsterdam, the world-famous marijuana free zone, it is legal to tonk it up at designated areas.
- Cancer Association of S A head of health Prof Michael Herbst said the organisation would only welcome medicinal marijuana once its use had been legalised .
"Studies have shown it's an aid for pain control, that it relieves nausea and vomiting, stimulates appetite and also helps children with a certain form of epilepsy.''
He, however, emphasised the need to control access.
"It should be in the hands of specially trained medical practitioners at approved and selected academic public hospitals so as to prevent any possible abuse of it."
All 1536 respondents in a poll conducted by the website http://cannabisoil.co.za/ felt medical cannibas should be legalised in South Africa.
Additional reporting by Poppy Louw