Mixed reactions to legalisation of medical marijuana

By Drum Digital
13 March 2014

There was mixed reaction in Parliament to a call for alternative cancer treatments, including medical marijuana, to be considered by government.

Cancer-stricken IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini initiated a debate in the National Assembly on the effects of cancer on society and government's response to the disease.

"We cannot have a government response, a health response which is based exclusively on the trinity of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. People are dying of cancer, but they are also dying because they are not allowed to have equally effective treatments," Ambrosini told the house.

He accused government of ignoring the pandemic.

While there's been a lot of media attention around his call for dagga to be decriminalised for medical and industrial purposes, Ambrosini said it was merely one of the alternative therapies government should legalise.

"There are other treatments like mistletoe injections, ozone therapy, bicarbonate of sodium...the cannabis oil - the dagga - the hypothermic therapy..."

Ambrosini acknowledged none of the treatments were a "silver bullet".

"We need to create centres where these treatments can be administered under controlled conditions because they are now administered to thousands of people under conditions which are not controlled...," he said.

"We are now facing a situation of thousands of people self-medicating because doctors cannot prescribe these treatments and cannot monitor their effectiveness."

ANC MP Bevan Goqwana believes cannabis alleviates the nausea associated with chemotherapy.

However, there was not enough research to prove exactly which part of the dagga plant were useful.

"No-one is sure which of the active ingredients does what. What we know the plant can be used orally, rectally or you can smoke it," Goqwana said.

Democratic Alliance MP Sandy Kalyan countered by saying there was a wealth of knowledge on the plant and the active ingredients in it.

"Medical marijuana is not new and the medical community has been writing about it for ages," Kalyan told the house.

"Colleagues, instead of emphasising the side-effects and the abuse of cannabis, we should be engaging on the beneficial effects of medical marijuana and I hope this debate is the start of that conversation."

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said his party was not opposed to "strictly controlled" research being conducted.

"We heard the plea of our honourable colleague Ambrosini. It's the view of the FF Plus that we support scientifically controlled research to see what the effects can be if dagga is also used in terms so the treatment of cancer...," Groenewald said.

Government should ensure the research was not abused.

"All the pros and cons should be weighed and then we should ensure that the benefits will really contribute to the relief of the trauma that you and I must endure when we have a friend or a loved one affected by cancer."

African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn said the decriminalisation of dagga for medicinal purposes was a controversial and complex issue.

"We do not and will not endorse the recreational use of cannabis or any attempt to move in this direction," Dudley said.

"However, we are mindful that presently morphine - a form of heroine used for pain control for terminally ill cancer patients - is toxic and lethal as it actively speeds up the death of the patients."

Dudley said her party would support clinical trials to "prove or disprove" claims made on the use of cannabis in cancer treatment.

- SAPA

- Picture: ewn

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