Parliament is finally taking a look at the Medical Innovation Bill. It was introduced by Mr Oriani-Ambrosini to serve as a catalyst for more meaningful discussions about cannabis at a national level. It champions the rights of the sick and dying but neglects some glaring issues and inconsistencies. These range from incorrectly defining the term, “cannabinoid”, to probabilities of market monopolisation.
The bill is a tailored copy-paste version of the Medical Innovation Bill introduced by Lord Saatchi to the House of Commons and is not suited for South Africa. It fails to address the larger legal and socio-economic implications of introducing a system that allows medical use of cannabis but not recreational use. The proposed system will not be able to effectively cater for large segments of the population, especially in rural and low-income areas with low access to proper health services.
Issues of affordability are not addressed because it ignores the fact that medical grade cannabis and its derivatives are generally expensive. Many South Africans are not financially able to afford these services and treatments. Couple that with the fact that these treatments are only available at certain hospitals and you are faced with a situation where only wealthy patients receive proper care. Impoverished patients will still need to rely on the blackmarket and criminal elements to acquire cannabis.
The bill is a stepping stone in the process of repairing the damage done by Prohibition. New policies must be grounded in evidence and avoid getting bogged down by clashing beliefs and political chest-thumping. All-in-all the bill is a good start but it still needs a better ending.
By Johnny McIntyre