Category Archives: Government

SAHRC cannot protect citizens against unjust dagga law – Chronological Order



The application and appeal of the dagga culture of South Africa to the South African Human Rights Commission in chronological order. In a nutshell the South African Human Rights Commission cannot change dagga law nor help those who are suffering under the persecution of unjust dagga laws.

Letter of Complaint & Official Complaint Application – Sent 28 March 2014

To whom it may concern.

I would like to know why the South Africa Human Rights Council has done nothing to protect otherwise law abiding citizen rights for choosing a safer alternative to alcohol, tobacco and conventional medication.

Where does the SAHRC stand on the subject of dagga prohibition. The last of the apartheid laws to go.

This is a a plea from the dagga culture and/or otherwise “illegal” medical dagga patients of South Africa.

We call for the immediate protection from an unjust law where the only victims are those who are punished under it.

I choose cannabis over alcohol, tobacco and conventional medication. I am not a criminal.

Please write back soonest.


The dagga culture of South Africa.




SAHRC’s reponse to complaint – Received 10 April 2014


REF: GP/1314/0939/KC (Please quote reference on future correspondence)
Dear Sir,


Your complaint received by the South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) during March 2014, refers.
The Commission is a state institution established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution) to support constitutional democracy. The Commission is mandated in terms of section 184 of the Constitution to promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of such rights within the Republic of South Africa.
Your complaint is based on the allegation that individuals who use cannabis for medical reasons are discriminated against and deemed to be criminals in terms of the existing legal framework prohibiting such conduct. In addition, you submit that the current legislative frameworks do not adequately protect individuals who utilise / consume cannabis. The Commission notes that the important issues which you have raised in your complaint have been the subject of recent discussions in Parliament. In this respect, the Commission confirms that it is currently monitoring all relevant Parliamentary and other debates and will also be engaging with the South African Medical Research Council and the Department of Health to obtain additional information on the topic to assist it with its own assessment and monitoring. In addition the Commission is monitoring recent reforms being implemented internationally.


Although the Commission does not have the power and / or authority to pass legislation, it can and will monitor and respond to legislative developments which impact on human rights.


Accordingly the Commission will continue monitoring developments on the issues raised by you to establish whether related legislation is being considered for development and tabling before Parliament in the future. Should such legislation be tabled, the Commission will at that stage, reassess the matter and respond thereto to ensure that basic human rights are appropriately addressed in such legislation to assist Parliament in its deliberations.


The Commission encourages interested and affected persons, like you, to actively engage in the public participation process which will occur once the draft is released to the public for comment.

In light of the above, the Commission will close its file herein.


Should you not be satisfied with this decision, you may lodge an appeal, in writing within 45 days of receipt of this letter. A copy of the appeal form is available at any office of the Commission. The appeal should be lodged with the Head




Letter of Appeal & Official Application of Appeal Against The Closure of Complaint – Sent 2nd May 2014

Thank you for you kindest response it’s has been welcomed by the whole dagga community of South Africa.

We are very glad to hear that you will be monitoring the developments of legal dagga in South Africa but I fear there is no hope for those who are being violated on a daily basis because of dagga prohibition today.

Please find herewith my official letter of appeal to keep the case file open and for immediate action to be taken to restore the rights and dignity of all daggafarians in South Africa.

Short excerpt on the history of dagga in South Africa

Dagga was first outlawed in South Africa in 1870 to control Indian workers in KwaZulu-Natal (Dagga is a traditional herb in the Hindu faith). By 1911 dagga was outlawed for all Africans except mineworkers and by 1925 the exception was revoked to control and oppress the members of the newly formed National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Effectively doing so; by making Dagga illegal. The oppressive racist State disrupted the economic wellbeing and culture of the indigenous people.


Dagga prohibition is based on old British segregation and apartheid dagga laws which are not supported by credible science but based solely on propaganda.

The Drug & Trafficking Act of 1992 can be directly compared to the Immorality Act of 1927.  It was wrong to punish people for having a partner of another colour then and it is wrong to punish an adult for choosing to use dagga now.

A law is not justified on the basis that it is a law.

It’s a crime against humanity to punish people for choosing a safer alternative to alcohol, tobacco and conventional medication.

It is clear that the Drug & Trafficking Act does not protect society but severely punish otherwise law abiding citizens.

1 in 4 children smoke dagga because it’s freely available while it’s illegal and unregulated.

Any given police station in South Africa arrests up to an average of 10 people per day for dagga possession.

Dagga Laws violate the following sections of the bill of rights

**There may be many more

  3. LIFE


I would like to urge the commission to apply an active approach to protecting the rights of daggafarians in South Africa.

If immediate action is not taken now our children’s children will look back into history 50 years from now and realize that we decided to sit down and take a passive approach while old apartheid laws based on propaganda made criminals of otherwise law abiding & peace loving people.

This case cannot be closed until daggafarians are freed from persecution under unjust dagga laws.


Dagga laws must immediately be reviewed or void. There is no justified reason to continue to criminalize otherwise law-abiding citizens for dagga possession.

There is no reason for a delay in the restoration of dagga rights. Insignificant bills are reviewed & approved regularly by parliament.

Please be our voice in government

We thank you for your time the Dagga Culture of South Africa






SAHRC’s Response to Letter of Appeal – Received 13 October 2014


Our Ref.: Provincial Ref.: AP6/05/2014

 Date: 29 September 2014

Dear Sir,


 Tel.: 011877 3600

Fax: 011 403 0567

The above matter and your letter of appeal received by our offices on or about the 5th day of May 2014 refers.

 I kindly confirm receipt of the aforesaid letter and the contents thereof has been noted.

The South African Human Rights Commission (hereinafter referred to as the “Commission”) was established

to investigate prima facie violations of human rights as contained within the Bill of Rights, which is Chapter

Two of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act, 108 of 1996 (hereinafter referred to as the”Constitution”).

In terms of Article 4 (2) (c) of the Commission’s Complaints Handling Procedures:

“4 (2) The Commission may reject any complaint, which

(c) IS the subject of a dispute before a court of law, tribunal, any statutory body, any body with

internal dispute resolution mechanisms, or settled between the parties, or in which there 15 a

judgment on the issues In the complaint or finding of such court of law, tribunal, statutory body or

other body.


Moreover, in terms of Article 12 (8) (a) of the Commission’s Complaints Handling Procedures:

“if the Provincial Manager makes a finding tl1at the complaint does not fall within the jurisdiction of the

Commission or could be dealt with more effectively or expeditiously by another organisation institution statutory body or institution created by the Constitution or any applicable legislation the complaint must … be referred to such appropriate organisation Institution or body and the complainant must .. . be notified thereof in writing, and be provided with the contact details of such appropriate organisation, institution or other body”


On perusing the file in this matter I kindly note that the initial complaint raised the issue regarding the

criminal prohibition on the use of cannabis and the alleged resultant discrimination against persons who choose to use it for medicinal purposes.

You approached the Legal Services Unit of the Gauteng Provincial Office of the Commission with a request that it assist you in resolving your complaint.

On or about the 10th day of April 2014 I note that the Provincial Of Ace advised you that this issue has

recently been raised in Parliament for discussion, and whilst the Commission cannot pass a new law, the

Commission will continue to monitor the topic and should a new law be tabled, the Commission will engage with Parliament to ensure that it complies with human rights.


The Provincial Office was of the view that there was nothing further it could do in this matter and proceeded to close your file.


With regards to the provisions of both the Constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act, 54 of 1994, the Commission’s Legal Services Unit is charged with the duty to investigate complaints of human rights violations and the manner within which this is dealt with is determined in its Complaints Handling Procedures.


After a thorough analysis and due consideration of your complaint I confirm that the Commission may refer any matter that could be dealt with more effectively and expeditiously by another organisation, statutory body or institution, and further that the Commission may reject any complaint in which there is a judgment in the issue.


I note that in your letter of appeal you alleged that the current law violate a number of human rights,

including the right to dignity, life, equality, freedom of religion, amongst others.


The issue relating to the alleged unfair discrimination of the criminalisation of cannabis on the ground of religion has already been dealt with by the Constitutional Court in Prince v President of the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope (CCT36/00) [2002} ZACC 1. The Commission does not have the jurisdiction to review or override a decision made by the Constitutional Court as this decision is final.

Further, the Commission does not possess the expertise to conduct an investigation into the medicinal properties of cannabis and whether the proposed benefits outweigh the potential dangers. The decision as to whether or not to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis does not purely relate to human rights considerations, but rather to wider policy implications. Consequentially, the Commission is not the correct body to deal with this matter, but its decision to continue to monitor the situation and to ensure that the human rights considerations are taken into account should a bill be tabled in Parliament is within the Commission’s mandate is correct.


Further, the Commission does not have the power to invalidate a law, and therefore you are therefore

advised to consult with a private attorney should you wish to take the matter to court for adjudication.


Accordingly, your appeal is dismissed and this decision is final.


Should you not be satisfied with this finding then kindly be advised that you may challenge same in court through the process of judicial review.


An application for judicial review must be made within 180 days of the date on which all internal remedies were exhausted. Where there are no internal remedies available, the application must be made within 180 days of the date on which the applicant became aware of the decision (or could reasonably be expected to have become aware of the decision). A person who asks for judicial review after this period will not be successful, unless they can convince the court to that it is “in the interests of justice” to allow it.


Yours faithfully,






51 Myths, Lies and Misconceptions behind the Drug Apartheid by Julian Buchanan

Drug law and policy has its roots in fear, ignorance, racism and self interest. Sadly, this has changed little over the years. It continues to be shaped more by punitive populism and moral crusades rather than scientific evidence, reason and rationality.


To expose and encourage a critical debate I’ve tried to uncover some of the main myths, lies and misconceptions that underpin and shape and inform drug policy development. Unless we acknowledge our philosophical position and identify the principles that inform our thinking, we risk replicating further misguided drug policies. Although punchy and accessible in style, each point below is carefully considered and can be academically supported – but that’s for another day!


1. “There is a clear pharmacological definition for drugs.” There isn’t – what we classify as illegal ‘drugs’ is a 1950s & 60s social and cultural construct with no coherent pharmacological rationale. We fail to recognise alcohol, tobacco or caffeine as drugs – and maybe sugar should also be classified as a drug.


2. “People who use drugs are drug misusers.” Untrue – the vast majority are recreational users who generally use drugs recreationally and sensibly, unfortunately we conflate use with problematic use. 


3. “Drug users are dirty, immoral and dangerous losers.” An unjustified and hostile stereotype – illicit drug users are a diverse group of people from every walk of life. The drug business is dirty, immoral and dangerous – that’s because it’s illegal, extremely lucrative and subject to fierce law enforcement.


4. “People take drugs because they have problems.” Untrue – most people take drugs because they enjoy the effect, just like alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.


5. “Regular drug use inevitably leads to addiction.” Untrue – only a small proportion of people who use drugs develop addiction – just like alcohol.


6. “Taking drugs damages people.” All substances (legal and illegal) can damage people and the most damaging drug of all is a legal one – alcohol. However, prohibition makes illicit drugs more dangerous and damaging. In addition, acquiring a criminal record for drugs can be more harmful to life than the drug. 


7. “Drug use fuels crime.” The presence of a drug and the commission of a crime does not equate to a causal connection. The relationship is ‘associated’ rather than ‘causal’. However, there is evidence that prohibition and tough law enforcement fuel violent crime.


8. “Legal drugs are safer and less harmful.” This is particularly misleading statement because alcohol and tobacco are far more damaging than most illegal drugs. However, prohibition makes it difficult to know the strength, ingredients or quality of illegal drugs.


9. “Law enforcement measures affect levels of drug use.” Studies show that in advanced western democracies neither tough, nor liberal law enforcement approaches have much impact upon levels of drug use.


10. “Addiction is an equal opportunity employer.” Drug use is an equal opportunity employer but addiction isn’t. While anyone can be affected, chronic problematic drug use tends to disproportionately affect those with disadvantaged and damaged lives that had significant difficulties before PDU and these people lack the resources, opportunities and support to recover.


11. “Addiction is a brain disease”. Untrue, yes the brain will be affected but loss of control of drugs (similar to internet addiction, gambling, over-eating) has much more to do with social, psychological and behavioural fact than neurological defects. If addiction was a brain disease MRIs would be used as diagnostic evidence of addiction.


12. “The government can protect society by banning new drugs”. Banning drugs masquerades as positive action to deal with the ‘problem’ when actually banning drugs has little impact on use and actually makes production, distribution and consumption more dangerous.


13. “Once listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act, drugs become controlled.” Technically correct – but once a drug is listed as a controlled drugit actually goes underground and ironically it becomes an uncontrolled drug.


14. “Cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to addiction to ‘hard’ drugs.” Untrue, most young adults have used cannabis and most have not progress onto using other drugs, nor have they become ‘addicts’. The last three Presidents of the USA all successfully used cannabis without any gateway affect.


15. “People who use caffeine, tobacco and/or alcohol are not drug users”.Untrue – they certainly are drug users and many are ‘addicts’. These three substances are all drugs, and ironically unlike some illegal drugs – in high dosages caffeine, tobacco and alcohol are toxic and result in death.


16. “If we lock up dealers we can reduce the drug related violence.” The opposite is true, disrupting the supply distribution and removing dealers creates more violence by fuelling market uncertainty, presenting new business opportunities and creating ‘business’ conflict.


17. “Drug use isn’t a crime issue it’s a health issue.” This may sound like a step in the right direction but taking a substance isn’t inherently a health issue anymore than enjoying a coffee or glass of wine is a ‘health issue’. Even problematic drug use isn’t best described as a health issue it’s more accurately a social, psychological, health and/or legal issue.


18. “There are ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs.” There is scientific evidence underpinning the misleading categorisation of hard and soft drugs. While some drugs can generally pose greater problems than other drugs to some people – these generalisations are misleading because the impact of a drug varies from person to person depending upon the set (the person) and the setting (the environment) – it’s not just the substance.


19. “Drugs are illegal because they are dangerous, and the proof they are dangerous is that they are illegal!” This circular Double-Speak offers no evidence but is used to defend prohibition, but the substances we have called ‘drugs’ are not particularly more dangerous than other substances such as alcohol, sugar, tobacco, fat, caffeine and peanuts. However, prohibition increases the risk, danger and uncertainty considerable.


20. “Drug testing will tell you if a person is on drugs.” The result is unreliable due human error, machine error, deliberate and accidental false positives and false negatives. Some who tests positive for cannabis could have been cannabis free for four weeks because the drug can be detected days, weeks even months later.


21. “Like everything else on the market drugs must be proven safe before they can ever be legalised.” Not true. The safety for other products does not have to be established before approval (for example mobile phones or GM foods). Substances that are damaging or even lethal to some such as tobacco, alcohol, peanuts are legal and promoted, whereas a drug such as cannabis that has medicinal benefits and has never killed anyone is considered dangerous and remains illegal.


22. “People who use drugs are not criminals they need help.” An apparently benign and supportive statement, however, while taking a drug should not be a law enforcement concern, neither should we problematize or pathologize druguse as a health issue. There is no reason why we should assume a person using drugs needs help.


23. “Recovery is about becoming drug free.” Recovery is about people who have been dependent on drugs regaining control of their life, but becoming drug free isn’t always necessary to achieve that. Some people sort their life out and continue to use in a non-problematic way, and some take clean legal prescribed substitutes such as methadone or heroin and successfully lead productive and stable lives. 


24. “Harm reduction is about reducing the spread of diseases.” Harm reduction is not just about health – it’s also about reducing social, cultural and psychological harms. Harm reduction is an evidenced based approach that should sit alongside human rights to underpin all drug policy. It’s pragmatic, humane and non judgemental, it engages people where they are at with a view to reducing risk and harm.


25. “Harm reduction doesn’t support abstinence.” Harm reduction isn’t about getting people off drugs – it’s about working with people to reduce risks. However, in some cases abstinence might be a good way to reduce risks – so harm reduction incorporates abstinence – but only if the person is ready, able, interested and wanting to become abstinent.


26. “Illegal drugs have little or no use in medicine.” Although this sentiment is enshrined in the much out-dated 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Opiates are essential in severe pain management  cannabis and MDMA, have medicinal benefits in the treatment of a growing number of conditions (e.g. MS, PTSD, Epilepsy). Illegality has made medical trials and acceptance extremely difficult.


27. “People who use drugs need treatment not prison.” Another apparently positive statement however, people who use drugs don’t need treatment or prison anymore than someone who has a double espresso each morning, or the person who enjoys a glass of whisky before bedtime needs treatment or prison. Under the umbrella of ‘it’s better than prison’ all sorts of questionable practices can be made palatable.


28. “To prevent stigma we need to understand addiction as a disease.” Yes we want to prevent stigma but addiction is not a disease. The most effective way to prevent stigma is to end the drug apartheid and challenge the hypocritical and flawed social construction of ‘drugs’. 


29. “Drug laws affect everyone the same.” This is not true. The chances of being stopped, searched, arrested and prosecuted for drug possession depends a greatly on the colour of your skin, your social class, age, location and your social background. 


30. “If we try hard enough we can eradicate drugs.” A fallacy. Forty years of extremely tough prohibition involving masses of time and money for police, armed forces and customs has had no impact upon supply, price or use. They can’t even keep drugs out of high security prisons.


31. “Heroin is a dangerous drug that damages your body.” Any street drug could be very damaging because illegality means the user hasn’t got a clue what’s in it. But clean pharmaceutical heroin (unlike alcohol) doesn’t cause any permanent damage to the body.


32. “Crack cocaine in pregnancy leads to permanently damaged ‘crack’ babies.” There is no consistent evidence to support this claim – from the longitudinal studies severe and enduring poverty appears to be the key factor that thwarts child progress and development not parental crack cocaine use during pregnancy. So instead of crying out about crack babies it would be more approapriate to get express concern over ‘poverty babies’. 


33. “Drug testing will help identify people who have a drug problem.”  Besides it’s unreliability – at best drug testing only indicates drug use it wont show pattern, time, place, nature or context of drug use. A positive results indicates drug use not problematic use.


34. “Law enforcement targets the most dangerous drugs.” Untrue, arrests and drug seizures for cannabis out number all the other drugs arrests combined. The war between drugs is largely a war on the relatively benign cannabis while the significantly more dangerous drug alcohol is enjoyed and promoted amongst law enforcement officials.


35. “People caught with cannabis don’t end up in prison.” Untrue, many certainly do.


36. “Drug law enforcement targets people who use drugs.” Levels of drug use across the white and black population are similar. However it depends upon the colour of your skin and your social status as to whether you will be targeted. If you are poor and have a minority ethnic heritage you are much more likely to be targeted – stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted and subsequently sentenced – for drug defined crime. 


37. “Heroin during pregnancy will cause permanent harm to the unborn child.” Street heroin is a problem because you don’t know what’s in it. But clean pharmaceutical heroin causes no known permanent damage to a baby. Once recovered from withdrawal symptoms babies will have no permanent harm. However, alcohol taken during pregnancy can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome – a permanent condition.


38. “A drug free world is desirable.” Drugs have been used since records began for pain relief, treating sickness, for relaxation and social reasons. Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco are drugs and arguably cocoa, sugar and fat too. A world without drugs is unthinkable, undesirable and untenable.


39. “Illegal drugs kill people.” This is misleading because the majority of drug deaths are consequences of prohibition and a draconian drug policy that makes taking drugs uncertain and more dangerous and getting help risky. A lot of deaths could have otherwise been avoided. 


40. “Drug policy is based upon the best available evidence.” For decades research reports, reviews, inquiries, expert groups have provided mountain loads of evidence – but drug policy has repeatedly ignored the best available evidence and instead continued to uphold the principles of prohibition enshrined in the 1961 UN Single Convention. Drug policy is rooted in ideological beliefs and moral high ground not science and evidence.


41. “It’s a war on drugs.”  Untrue drugs have never been more accommodated, integrated or promoted. There is no war on alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, fat or BigPharma drugs.  It is a war on particular drugs that have been outlawed for political, social and economic reasons (not pharmacological or scientific reasons). It’s a ‘War Between Drugs’ enforced by an uncompromisingly tough Drug Apartheid.


42. “Regulation is the way forward.” Ideally, but it depends upon what regulation looks like. Not if that regulation (as illustrated in the New Zealand Psychoactive Substance Act 2013) means: you are now prohibited and punished for possession of substances not approved by the state (s.71 $500 fine); supply carries a 2 year prison sentence (s.70); all new psychoactive substances not listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act are automatically prohibited and the only way of acquiring ‘approved’ substances is through BigPharma or BigBusiness.


43. “Every day drug free is a another day of being clean.”  This is misleading, is anyone ever (and should they be?) drug free because we take caffeine, sugar, cocoa, aspirin, alcohol?  More importantly this statement wrongly insinuates taking a drug is wrong and dirty and without them we become ‘clean’.


44. “Alcohol occupies so much police time – imagine how bad it’d be if we legalise cannabis.”  There is no comparison these are two very different substances. The impact of any drug also depends more upon set and setting.  Better regulation will create controls of cannabis and alcohol – but prohibition provides no control whatsoever.


45. “Legalising drugs is dangerous because more people will use drugs.”  People who are currently using unknown (purity, toxicity, ingredients, strength) street drugs and risking a criminal record will be in a much safer position. In countries where drugs have been legalised or decriminalised there has not been any overall increase in drug use. However, it is dangerous and problematic drug use that should concern us not drug use per se.


46. “Cannabis use by drivers is leading to more deaths on the road.” Unfounded. There is evidence that cannabis is increasingly found in blood samples but this presence of cannabis in the blood stream could arise from use of cannabis days, weeks even months ago. Drug presence doesn’t mean impairment.


47. “Every drug death is further evidence of the dangers of drugs.”  Most drug deaths are a by-product of draconian drug policy that could be avoided by a combination of naloxone distribution, safer drug use education, drug testing kits, drug consumption rooms and less intolerance and stigma.


48. “The underground criminal business in drugs is enormous so we need tougher law enforcement.” Unfortunately it is prohibition that has created these conditions in the first instance, more enforcement will have little positive impact. However, regulation and decriminalisation would make a real positive difference significantly reducing the underground illegal drug business.


49. “Better that someone goes to Drug Court than prison.” Anything can appear palatable and justified if presented as an alternative to prison. Better that people who need help can access that help in the community following a thorough assessment and a best-fit treatment plan that has access to a full range of services, rather than having to access an enforced abstinence 12 step programmes through the criminal justice system.


50. “The world would be a better place without drugs.” Drugs are vital in medicine and pain relief, they are also important for relaxing, sleeping, socialising, providing energy, thinking laterally, creatively and artistically. Legal drugs alcohol, caffeine and tobacco are used for these purposes every day, although other illegal drugs might be safer and better suited.


51. “People grow out of taking drugs.”  While there is evidence that people grow out of criminal activity the use prohibited drugs involves criminal risks, so if there is a shift away from illegal drugs at a later age it’s not necessarily that people aren’t growing out of drugs but more likely people may grow out of accessing drugs if it involves criminal activity. There is no evidence people grow out of using the drugs alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.


SECTION 21: MOOT! Applications Will Not Be Authorised For Dagga

Dr Shyamli Munbodh Says Section 21 applications will not be authorised for dagga


I was lied to in the presence of the Public Protector senior investigator Nicky Maoka by Joey Gouws Director of the MCC regarding a section 21 application of medical cannabis. I was lied to on the public broadcaster the SABC by the spokesperson of the CDA regarding the same.

This is the FOB by Dr Shyamli Munbodh from the MCC/DOH – listen for yourself. – Andre du Plessis

Medical Dagga by CDA Peter Ucko


Time to extend pockets of excellence in fight to beat cancer BY WILMOT JAMES

MARIJUANA has properties that moderate pain. Its use brings relief to cancer sufferers, as brought into focus recently by the tragic death of Inkatha Freedom Party MP, Mario Oriani-Ambrosini. Marijuana does not prevent cancer, nothing does. It is most likely the most intractable unsolved medical science problem of our day. Neither does it replace existing medical interventions such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or viral-based therapies that in certain defined instances can break down tumours after the cancer has taken hold.

Melanoma treated with dagga oil

No matter which marijuana strains are used, it bears repeating that it neither prevents nor therapeutically is capable of treating cancer. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, marijuana’s greatest benefit is to reduce pain and then only up to a point. In this respect it is uncontroversial if pain moderation (and other possible) properties are clinically verified, its use should be decriminalised for medical use. To do so does not require the commercialisation of production or distribution of marijuana.

These aspects are, as a matter of fact, not relevant in the least to the thrust of what needs to be done with the Medical Innovation Bill (a private member’s bill) introduced initially by Oriani-Ambrosini. Marijuana can be obtained by special dispensation, or it can be specially grown on experimental farms under the watchful eye of, for example, the Agricultural Research Council. Marijuana supply is a wholly separate issue from its appropriate medical use. This is why we propose that the issue of commercialisation of marijuana should be stripped from the bill.

In any event, we should not fixate on marijuana only. There are other plant-derived applications too. Though he overstates his case, Daniel Webster (in Botanical Oncology, 2014, Panaxea Publishing) provides considerable detail on well over 200 botanical health applications that may provide some benefit to cancer sufferers: “Many botanical substances,” Webster writes, “have good anti-inflammatory properties, can increase healing and stimulate immune response … botanicals have extensive properties to manage side-effects, overcome multidrug resistance and even increase the efficacy of chemotherapy.”

Of course, all these hypotheses should be subject to rigorous clinical scrutiny. But even if they were to pass the tough tests of clinical medicine, it must be said that plant-derived applications have some relevance when it comes to treating, but are not in the least significant when it comes to the real war involved in solving the problem of cancer.

To solve the cancer problem, requires a breakthrough in science that for now has proved elusive. That a breakthrough has not yet occurred gives no comfort to cancer sufferers, but that is no reason to give up on the scientific enterprise, which constitutes the only method in human history to generate consistently reliable therapies for many communicable and noncommunicable diseases.

Our understanding of what cancer is has advanced in leaps and bounds. In summary form, this is what we know about tumour cells and the onset of cancer (see Harvey Lodish et al, Molecular Cell Biology, 2012, chapter 24 Cancer):

  • Cancer is a fundamental aberration in the behaviour of cells. Most cell types of the body can give rise to malignant tumour cells.
  • Cancer cells can multiply in the absence of growth-promoting factors required for the proliferation of normal cells and are resistant to genetic signals that normally programme necessary cell death.
  • Cancer cells also invade surrounding tissues by breaking through the boundaries that define them and spreading through the body to establish secondary areas of growth.
  • Both primary and secondary tumours require the recruitment of new blood vessels in order to grow to a large mass.
  • Certain cultured cells infected with tumour-cell DNA undergo transformation. Such transformed cells share many properties with tumour cells.
  • The requirement for multiple genetic mutations in cancer formation is consistent with the observed increase in the incidence of human cancers as we grow older. Most of such mutations are not heritable.

While there have been major advances in integrating radio, chemical, genetic and botanical therapies, ongoing research is promising but has yet to yield prevention and curative breakthroughs. A noteworthy advance is gene therapy, but it is out of reach to most because at this time it is expensive and available only as part of clinical trials. Gene therapy is a treatment that involves altering the body’s genes (think of genes as “coding instructions”) to stop disease. Gene therapy replaces a faulty gene or adds a new gene in an attempt to cure disease or help our bodies’ ability to fight disease using existing immunity tools. It holds promise for treating cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, diabetes, haemophilia and AIDS.

There are therefore compelling reasons to continue investing in advancing the science of cancer, chief among which is the ethical obligation to save human lives. It is in this respect that the Medical Innovation Bill should be redrafted to provide for a dedicated facility to co-ordinate existing and introduce new areas of research and treatment for cancers that tend to be most prevalent in the South African population.

During a recent visit to the biomedical research hub at Biopolis in Singapore, I was struck by how they, thinking and planning ahead, structured their high-level research to deal in an organised way with Southeast Asia’s disease burden, including cancers. Accordingly, Biopolis’s scientists have begun to establish the first stages in developing a therapeutic antibody pipeline by working with cancer stem, tumour-initiating and triple-negative breast cancer cells. They also developed a speciality in the early prognosis of gastric, liver and blood cancers in their populations of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian descent.

Even with lesser resources, thinking ahead, we should do the same here. We have pockets of excellence in cancer-related work at some of our universities, private hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and the Medical Research Council, but as an enterprise it is dissipated, unfocused, poorly resourced and without the right distribution of brain power. If nothing else Oriani-Ambrosini’s Medical Innovation Bill should focus our efforts.

• James is the Democratic Alliance’s shadow health minister

Public Protector Declines Investigation Into R1 Billion Cannabis Research Maladministration

GIF Animiation

GIF Animiation

Please quote this reference in your correspondence: 7/2 -004187/13

Enquiries: Adv. L Yousuf
Tel: 012 366 7160 I Fax: 086 625 8233
E-mail: lailay@pproteclorg
Mr AH Du Plessis

Dear Mr Du Plessis


The above subject matter refers.

Kindly be informed that we have considered your request to review the decision
taken in respect of your complaint against the Department of Health.
In terms of the Public Protector’s policy on review, the decision to undertake a review
is not automatic. If one is dissatisfied or does not agree with a decision or the
outcome of an investigation, the duty is on him/her to supply sufficient evidence to
persuade the Public Protector that a review is justified. The purpose of a review is to
confirm whether the process undertaken to handle your matter was fair and
reasonable. It is not to conduct a separate or new investigation.

A review will only be considered on the basis of the following grounds:

1. If the complainant believes that a decision is wrong because it was made
based on incomplete or inaccurate evidence or information that contained
inaccurate facts, and he/she can show this using readily available information;
and/ or

2. If there is new and relevant information that was not previously available and
has a material effect on the decision made.

After considering all factors submitted in support of your request for a review, we
have come to a conclusion that the reasons you have provided are not adequate to
justify looking in to the matter again . We regret to inform you that that there is
nothing further that our office can assist you with.

Therefore our file remains closed.

Kind Regards

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