From the Horse’s Mouth

By |Published On: November 22nd, 2014|

 

12-Apostles-January-2014There are many queries about the bill currently under consideration in parliament. We are watching very closely. We would like to share the answers provided by Advocate Stransham-Ford when asked about the bill by a journalist from a pharmaceutical magazine. Be assured that we are watching the process very closely and we are very aware that the politicians are going all out to hijack the process.

 

 

 

 

 

From a journalist writing for a pharmaceutical magazine:
Please see some questions below on the Medical Innovation Bill.

  1. To your knowledge, when was the idea to legalise marijuana in South Africa as medical treatment first officially suggested? I.e. was the tabling of the bill the first time the topic was brought to the government and public’s attention, or were organisations advocating for the use of this substance as a treatment for some time prior to the bill being tabled?
  2. How are you involved in the Medical Innovation Bill? Did you help create it, or are you playing an advocacy role via your involvement with organisations such as FieldsOfGreenForAll?

Understanding the legal aspects of the bill:

  1. The bill seeks to make provision for innovation in medical treatment and to legalise the use of cannabinoids for medical purposes and beneficial commercial and industrial uses.
    a.
    Does the bill make provision for this substance’s recreational use?
    b. What beneficial commercial and industrial uses do cannabinoids have?
  2. Does the bill only involve cannabinoids, or would it have implications for the use of other banned substances too?
  3. It seeks to legalise the medical, commercial and industrial use of cannabis in accordance with emerging world standards.
    a. Can you give an example of standards being followed by other ‘emerging worlds’?
    b. Have other developing countries been able to successfully implement the bill?
  4. One of the purposes of this act is to codify existing best practices as to decisions by medical practitioners to innovate in cases where evidence-based treatment or management is not optimal or appropriate because the available evidence is insufficient or uncertain
    a. Will innovative treatment only be able to be done at specific centres around the country, or will general practitioners across the country be able to innovate with this treatment?
  5. In the Memorandum on Objectives, the Background section discusses the public health consequences of banning cannabis as treatment.
    a. Are the legal restrictions on cannabis as a treatment currently resulting in unnecessary human suffering and death on a mass scale, with consequent immense social and economic costs?

Advocate Stransham-Ford answers:

  1. My direct experience of the Cannabis issue in South Africa began with an election to use the Cannabis cancer protocol rather than the chemotherapy when diagnosed with terminal cancer.
  2. In that period in 2013 I met Dr Mario Ambrosini who was by then also on the protocol and also living past his expected expiry.
  3. We resolved, with our remaining time and energy to assist those who followed even if we could not help ourselves.
  4. In the result we drafted the Medical Innovation Bill and launched the Cancer Treatment Campaign which we tabled and announced in Parliament on 18 February 2014.
  5. These two acts and the debates that followed precipitated a powerful response from the country and abroad where there was a tide of legalisation laws being passed in the wake of the very powerful medical and scientific evidence demonstrating the extraordinary attributes of the Cannabis plant.
  6. At the time of the launch of the Campaign and the Bill in February, Dr Ambrosini appealed in Parliament for the adoption of our proposals and for the preemption of litigation in which I am briefed to move a challenge brought by the Dagga Couple, the Dagga Party and Mr Gareth Prince of the Rastafarian Community and various industrial, medical, scientific and affected parties including accused persons against the Constitutionality of the prohibition of Cannabis. Grounds include comparator irrationality, individual sovereignty, rights to health, micro and macro economics, scientific, industrial and economic empowerment. As Dr Ambrosini announced at the annual Dagga gathering and march in Cape Town it is proposed to put the plant on trial.
  7. This trial is set down to run in 2015. The parties have agreed that it will be a media trial with international appellate recourse with a view to conducting a dispassionate and rational evaluation of the merits in a uniquely visible and authoritative adjudication that would withstand global scrutiny. By media trial it is proposed for reasons of cost, convenience and coverage that evidence in chief will be availed in discovery via electronic media and that cross examination also be via electronic media so that the matter is globally accessible and an audio visual record is archived in perpetuity.
  8. Fields of Green for All is an electronic platform that serves as a clearing house for information in the cannabis constituency. It serves as an information and activity exchange and as such is an evidence provider for the trial of the plant.
  9. Our Bill does not address the issue of the recreational use of Cannabis. This is a matter of personal sovereignty. Our view as publicly expressed was that getting stoned was at worst a vice. There is some necessary confluence between the medical and recreational use of cannabis if smoked but neither Dr Ambrosini nor I drank or smoked. The issue of bodily sovereignty of course arises in medical and recreational use and is a paramount constitutional consideration to be ventilated at trial.
  10. I have sent you my unpublished response to the Business Day editorial separately. This addresses some of the industrial and commercial benefits. Suffice to say that if the prohibition of Cannabis were removed or stuck down there would emerge a multibillion dollar international industry with massive empowerment impact for rural communities and increased home grown revenues for traditional leaders and their constituents. There already exist ample laws to address any undesirable activities that may be associated with getting stoned and the enforcement resources of which 99% is directed to the low hanging fruit that is Cannabis could properly be applied against bad drugs.
  11. The commercial and industrial benefits of a Cannabis industry in South Africa are very far reaching for the entire region because legalisation here would cause domino legalisation in neighbouring states to avoid interstate trafficking with the result that the renowned grower countries with their existing underground industries would surface in a powerful indigenous economic bloc. We have proposed that a system of international auction floors be implemented in the region as has been done with such success in the international tobacco auction floors of Central Africa. This would support rural communities by providing the small farmer with a bi annual crop and income sold to his local coop and marketed internationally via auctions in the same fashion as the Dutch flower markets. In this way industrial grade Cannabis fibres would be grown on a sustainable basis for fabricating products from bricks through paper and textiles. The biomass is readily converted to energy for the grid or fuel and at the high end of the upstream products there are advanced medicinal and scientific applications including superconducting properties said to exceed those of Nobel prize winning graphene.
  12. As to the industrial applications for cannabinoids there are submissions now before the parliamentary portfolio committee from a company with patented technology and science that would enable the extraction of cannabinoids in a non psychotropic form and their delivery to cannabinoid receptor sites in the body that would increase bioavailability from 5 percent to 40 percent. And because the cannabinoids are natural and not artificial FDA standard approvals can be attenuated from around 10 to around 3 years at very low cost. Cape Town University and others already have substantial cannabinoid research data and could bring a product so extracted from in vitro to in vivo in around six months.
  13. As to other developing country initiatives; in Uruguay the plant is entirely legal in January 2015. Cannabis users are registered and the supply chain is controlled by government. In Colorado the emphasis is on licensing and taxation but individuals can grow their own. In Washington state the emphasis is the same but individuals may not grow their own. In Netherlands it is only decriminalised and tightly controlled in coffee shops and so black markets thrive. Wherever there is partial limitation black markets and crime thrive because of supply side diseconomies. Over-taxation and regulation simply create issues like contraband cigarettes. South Africa and this region have an opportunity through an open market international auction floor system to become a global powerhouse to the industry with no more need to interfere than in the wine industry and no need to do more than be involved in the tax take.
  14. As to Innovation: without innovation there cannot be integration. South Africa’s Medicines Act is a fine piece of drafting and has stood the test of time for over 50 years. But it was born in a separatist time and excluded the indigenous people and their remedies which have remained excluded since. Brief regard to the definitions and schedules that define them indicate the very narrow paradigm of the time. But we simply cannot legally, economically or practically ignore the ancient remedies or the giant pharmacopoeia of the traditional Chinese, Indian, South American or African traditions. The proper approach in our view is an inclusive one which contemplates integration of these traditions with the more recent Western disciplines. This is essential in the IT era of medicine. Both Dr Ambrosini and I have resorted to innovation in cancer through the use of dendritic cell therapies, Traditional Chinese, Tibetan, South American and African remedies as well as non carbohydrate ketogenic dietary regimes, bicarbonate of soda and the like.
  15. We proposed the establishment of an integrative cancer treatment centre in the Cape so that there could be a repository and clearing house for knowledge from associated disciplines around the world where integrative protocols and innovative techniques could evolve. There exists a similar model In Mexico for example. Far from requiring that these techniques be confined to centres of excellence we saw them growing from centres of excellence in the hands of innovative and integrative practitioners. It is known that honey to keep one healthy should be harvested from around 5 kilometres from where one lives. We had that view for our proposed centres. To the extent that practitioners who innovate must be regulated the government should not be further incapacitated by unnecessary regulation because it cannot now cope with enforcement. What we proposed was that, rather like Law Societies with their indemnity funds and fidelity fund certificate requirements, the insurance industry is best placed and informed to regulate risk in innovation.
  16. It took months for me, when confronted with no option but chemotherapy and morphine on a path to die, to find noble outlaws (most of whom have successful other businesses) who would supply us with cannabis oil. Most of these have been driven to sustain production outside of the law because family and close friends and associates have shown such spectacular results or are in such great need. The demand for medical use is so very much greater than supply because of illegality and interdiction that prices are too high but many multiples lower than the cost of conventional treatments. As matters stand these Samaritans and their patients, including Dr Ambrosini and I who were officers of court and Parliament alike are forced to live outside of the existing law in order to survive. The prosecution of these folk, many of whom grow and process the plant to keep their cancer stricken wives or children alive is as, Dr Ambrosini said in Parliament, a crime against humanity.
  17. You ask how “Pharma Dough can help Farmer Joe”. In our view this initiative provides a unique opportunity, not for bio piracy, nor for genetic facsimile, nor for synthetic isolates of active cannabinoids, because in this region the plant is indigenous varied and fecund. Pharma and industry have the technology, science, knowledge and power to dynamise an industry from scratch that is unique to this region and already there. There is simply no downside or risk except that, in the words of Byron we become the careful pilots of our proper woe.


Robin Stransham-Ford

October 2014

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