Clamp-down on illegal cannabis products claiming medical benefits
SA’s medicine regulator is working closely with the police to clamp down on illegal sales of unregistered cannabis-containing products claiming medical benefits, but has yet to successfully prosecute any companies or individuals breaking the law, according to a senior official at the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).
It means businesses are continuing to cash in on consumer demand for medical cannabis products, despite the regulator’s efforts to bring order to the sector. One of the most popular products is cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which proponents claim treats an array of medical conditions ranging from cancer to arthritis.
The Medicines and Related Substances Act says any products making medical claims must be registered with Sahpra as medicines. None of the cannabis products currently on the market are registered, and the regulator has no applications pending, said Sahpra’s head of enforcement Griffith Molewa. This means all the cannabis-containing products making medical claims currently on sale in SA are illegal, and consumers have no guarantee that they are safe and effective.
The penalty for selling unregistered medicines is a fine, or a prison term of up to 10 years, he said.
Sahpra is also trying to clarify the rules for products marketed as food supplements, and is collaborating with the health department to devise guidelines for the sector, he said.
At the other end of the supply chain, Sahpra has begun approving licences for the cultivation of medical cannabis, opening the way for local companies to gain a share of a rapidly growing international market.
The regulator issued a statement last week saying it had written to three successful applicants, advising them of the conditions that would be attached to their five-year licences, but did not name the applicants.