Regulator sounds warning on illegal cannabis medicines

Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SA’s medicines regulator has warned consumers that all the medical products containing cannabis on the local market are illegal, as none have been registered with the authorities.

In a statement issued on Monday, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) said the recent Constitutional Court ruling legalising the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use did not mean people could use it to manufacture and sell their own medicines.

The Constitutional Court handed down a judgment in September 2018 that declared existing legislation which criminalises the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis unconstitutional. It is therefore no longer an offence for a person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private, or to cultivate the plant in a private place for their personal consumption.

The medicines regulator said there were a number of outlets and individuals selling cannabis-containing products, including oils, for medicinal use, in contravention of the Medicines and Related Substances Act. The act says no one may sell medicines that are not registered with the regulator.

“The cannabis-containing products and oils that are currently available in SA and which have not been registered or approved by SAHPRA are therefore illegal. Suppliers and users of such illegal products are exposing themselves and others to legal and health risks as the safety, efficacy and quality of these products cannot be assured,” it said.

Patients seeking cannabis-containing medicines were advised by the regulator to apply for an exemption to section 21 of the Medicines Act, which enables the importation of medicines that have been registered in other countries, such as Canada and the Netherlands.

“To date, 56 such applications have been approved by SAHPRA, based on motivation for use in specific patients by an authorised prescriber,” it said.

The regulator said anyone cultivating cannabis for medicinal use required a licence. None had been granted since the regulator published guidelines for the cultivation of cannabis and manufacture of cannabis-containing medicinal products in 2017.