Medical Cannabis, Human Rights & South Africa.

By |Published On: August 25th, 2014|

The Medical Innovation Bill, legislation calling for the right to use ‘alternative treatments’ in the fight against cancer has projected medical cannabis as a concept into thousands of South African homes. The Late IFP MP Mario Ambrosini addressed South Africa’s Parliament and President Zuma himself in February 2014 with a plea to research cannabis as a safe, effective medication for the dis-ease cancer brings to the body.

Surely it is an individuals right to ingest whatever they care to, perhaps more so when faced with a terminal diagnosis, to ease the pain?
That being so, Cannabis remains illegal in all natural forms whether it be for medication or recreation.

Or is it.?

When Jeremy Acton, Leader of the Dagga Party of South Africa challenged the Western Cape High Court with a Stay in Prosecution of all Dagga Cases nationwide, pending the outcome of the Dagga Couple’s Constitutional Challenge, he was rejected and the motion denied.

Within the State’s Heads of Arguments papers the following was noted by the Director of Public Prosecutions:

“It is incorrect to say that there is a total ban on cannabis. Currently, the Medicines Act permits the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes under the supervision of medical professionals as well as the prescription of cannabis for use off the premises of a hospital (Section 22A)”

Correct us if we are reading this wrong, but that seems to imply that if you had a doctor prepared to prescribe the plant, you could obtain the plant as medicine.

A young South African activist whom we know well has chosen to dig deeper into this curious statement by government. He recently penned this letter to the South African Human Rights Commission:

(cut & paste from Facebook 25.08.14)

With regards the denial of a medical treatment option

To whom it may concern

I am writing to you as a medical patient in need of a specific medical treatment option, which is currently being denied to me. I believe that this is a gross violation of my human rights as a South African and in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 –

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3).

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control” (Article 25, Paragraph 1).

I have contacted three separate doctors with regards my need for a prescription or written recommendation to use cannabis as a treatment for my neuropathy and insomnia associated with a serious spinal compression injury involving fractured vertebra and as a safe, natural bronchodilator with which to treat my lifelong chronic bronchial asthma. My daily life is turmoil health wise.
With regards to the responses I got from doctors in light of my question – the first doctor failed to provide an answer (via social media). The second doctor whom I made an appointment with and met in person told me that while he was aware of some of the cannabis plants benefits he personally had no firsthand experience writing prescriptions for it for his patients. The third and most recent doctor who I communicated with via her receptionist told me firstly that it was illegal so she couldn’t prescribe it, but then upon more questioning from me she admitted that she had prescribed it once before, but that it was to a female patient who had terminal breast cancer. I got the distinct impression that she was somehow suggesting that my conditions were not serious enough to warrant a prescription for cannabis which is certainly not accurate.

I know that cannabis works for me personally, because I have used it before while living in Europe when visiting the Netherlands where it is available as a legally obtainable treatment option. There is no justification for cannabis not to be permitted for South African patients who are in need of it.

According to a representative from the South African government in papers filed in Case 15793/13 WCHC, Cape Town, Acton vs Minister of Justice and National Prosecuting Authority – The following is taken from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions’ (2nd Respondent) Heads of Argument:

“It is incorrect to say that there is a total ban on cannabis. Currently, the Medicines Act permits the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes under the supervision of medical professionals as well as the prescription of cannabis for use off the premises of a hospital (Section 22A)”

No distinction is made between the types of disabilities/diseases/health conditions, etc. that may qualify a patient for a prescription to use cannabis as a treatment option. I therefore believe that I have been discriminated against in being denied this treatment option.

I have also made attempts to contact the Western Cape Department of Health and lodged an application to gain a permit to grow a couple of cannabis plants to be used for my own personal use as medicine. I am still waiting for responses from both of these departments but have been told that they will get back to me when they have had time to look over my communications.

I am acutely aware of IFP MP Dr Ambrosini’s Medical Innovation Bill which is currently before the South African Parliament, but it does not make any mention for cannabis being used as a medical treatment for any conditions besides cancer as far as I can ascertain. This would obviously not be of any help with regards my personal position and circumstances.

I would like to know what course of action you suggest to take this matter further.I am in a lot of discomfort and would therefore for obvious reasons like to expedite this process as quickly as possible.

I look forwarding to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Alexander Dowding


To his surprise he received not one but two replies shortly after:

Dear Alexander
Thanks for this email. I have forwarded it to our investigator, including those in Cape Town, who will be in contact with you.
Please feel free to check with me should you not get any response by mid-next week.

Kind regards,
Isaac Mangena

Dear Alexander
I am pleased to tell you that our Western Cape provincial office has just indicated to me that the matter has been registered for investigation.
You should be getting their call as soon as the office opens on Monday.


Have you got a condition that you KNOW is treatable with cannabis and works well for you?
Maybe you should do as Alex has done. Write that letter. Ask the government WHY you cannot obtain a safe, natural, non toxic plant to treat yourself with. If thousands of us wrote the same letters – someone in government somewhere would surely have to respond to the requests?

Email Mr Isaac Mangena at the SAHRC:   [email protected]

Tell us how you get on. Something must give somewhere eventually…..
and BIG UP to Alex……..







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About the Author: Jules Stobbs

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  1. Zebulon China December 9, 2015 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Hi. I feel for you guys who need the leaf of the tree, for the healing of the nation. I had this terrible migraines two years ago, went to the clinic, but could not get the quality treathment to stop the migraines, was told to buy meself a pair of sunglasses, as the results of my migraines is caused by direct sunlight through my eyes. I bought the sunglasses, but were not healed.

    I happened, by coincidence, to observe a 250ml of pure Hemp Seed Oil in the pharmacy, and immediately bought it. I had three tablespoons, and since, i am a new man.

    In the same time, i happened to be a Rastafarian. I have Constitutional Rights, with regards to Worship, Believe, Culture, Tradition as a Khoi, and many others. But I’m being labeled as a criminal, as someone constantly associated with mariuana, because of an Criminal Act, Section 21 sub-section (1) paragraph (a) sub-paragrah (i), for if I have more than 115grammes, and paragraph (b) sub-paragraph (i) and (ii) of the said Act, Act 140 of 1992. But, the Constitution states that it’s the Supreme Law of the Republic, and that it binds all organs of state, including legislation, executive, as well as the judiciary. It further states, that the State must, in cases where a Right is not recognised, develope, honour and respect it.

    So, I figured that, somehow, the government is ignoring us, and therefor, We should put this government out of power. And to do that, we should all Vote in favour of any political party willy to embrace mariuana, especially the Economic Freedom Fighters, for not only do we embrace the plant, but we should control all the Strategic Economic Sectors, including the Land to cultivate the Healing of the Nation.

    I hope you guys get my explanation!

  2. mohammed vawda November 23, 2015 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Im a 14 yr old guy i suffer from severe depression anxiety lack of concentration liver disease and a skin disease and i spoke to this one doctor once and he told me why dont you try marijuana so i gave it a shot and it helped me with my depression anxiety i started focusing more my liver started making enough blood for my body and my skin itches had reduced so i feel that why do we have to listen to people who want to call the herb of god a drug and so on if you have a illness its very likely that marijuana will cure it
    Stay lifted

  3. Bronwyn Rachman May 30, 2015 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    From a spiritual perspective I really am blown away as to why nobody will legalise what was orginally FREE to all of society, do they want to continue to brainwash us with chemical substances to “help”when the chemicals are more toxic than any sacred holistic plant. Take Ibogaine for example..its legalised and is issued for addictions depression etc but it cannot be used under a medical aid why is that?? Is it because it will take away the filthy money from doctors and organisations that rake in millions a year from their chemical substances and pathetic rehab facilities. So many sacerd plants around us to help heal all diseases etc but we given death in a bottle and told its a cure..NO the cure is the plants…so screw what law says…grow the cannabis..ITS YOUR LIFE you saving..its your free will its basically like having your freedom ripped from you and screw that. Society is brainwashed daily in more way than one and their free will stripped from them. And scary part is its just a matter of time before things really get alot worse and thats why its vital for people to start growing holistic plants and start going into homeopathic remedies and yes dont even think of giving your kids those immunisations..GROW THE WEED

  4. Andre Bester April 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    grow your own!!!!!!

  5. Wesley January 6, 2015 at 9:29 am - Reply

    I lived in California for the past year and I witnessed how much it has helped people even with minor medical conditions. People in South Africa should have access to it for medicinal and recreational uses

  6. Dpsyphil December 17, 2014 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Dr. Yusuf and others.

    Clearly this an outrage, this is not merely a matter of health. This is a matter of Freedom, in a country that has fought against oppression for so long and emerged “victorious” we should know better.. The issue is as a global society, we have somehow given over the control of our minds, to Goverments. They have the rights, to break down your door 3 in the morning, drag you out of bed and lock you away give you Criminal record, because you were exploring your own consciousness. The facts that dagga, psychedelics, etc are still illegal speaks only of the global oppression the human, is facing. 30years ago it was illegal to Black man in certain restaurant etc.. we have to oppose these idiotic laws.. this not a matter of health or public safety it’s a matter of true freedom.. and as Tata said.. ” if a man is denied to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw” – nelson Mandela. If I am not allowed to explore my own mind and consciousness, which is my most intimate Part, it is what. Makes me Human, how am I to be free. This is Human rights Issue.

    • Jules Stobbs January 6, 2015 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Our sentiments entirely. Thank you for your comments.

  7. Alex December 8, 2014 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Cannabis should be leaguele and easy to opptain all sa has to day is follow some of the rules already in place in country’s such as the u.s.a and Europe and that government it self can also make billion a year and provide job for million that need it and proved medical help that we need

  8. Lizzy November 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I suffer from chronic headaches and migraines for about 2 years now. I have been to doctors and they only prescribe pain killers that don’t even have an effect. I used to smoke marijuana on a social basis and ended up smoking it every day for my everyday headaches. You can only take so many pain killers and if they don’t work, what is the point? It works like a bomb for my stress levels and the pain, helps with the nausea when I get migraines. I don’t understand why it is illegal when it is honestly the best option for a lot of people! Looking forward to the day that I can smoke in peace!

  9. simphiwe sithole November 24, 2014 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Hi, I am a 24year old from Johannesburg.when I was little I suffered From an ear infection and the infection had lead me to have server headaches and migraines so during my third year in high school my biology teacher noticed that l am absent almost every 2days in a week.he was concerned and she asked me what was the problem and I explain my condition to her to be honest I was shocked when she recommended that I use weed occasionally for the migraines n headaches ever since I never stopped using,it calms me down I just feel relaxed after IV smoked a joint even though some people still think that the plant is forbidden n toxic and the brutality from the police.
    I believe dagga is a key to treat other chronic diseases and other illnesses around the globe.


  10. Lunjalo Oluka Aten November 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    I am a born intelligent being. I started smocking dagga since 2011, and my life has never been the same. I’m now able to focus, love, accept, relax, sleep, heal, laugh and fuck in a very higher state. Life feels complete with this Holy Plant, the gods derseve all the glory!!!

    • Jonas Barbarossa May 16, 2015 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      More power to you, mate.

  11. Jason October 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Any feedback on Alex’s progress?

  12. smokepuff October 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I’m 24 suffering from major depression, anxiety and a liver disorder on top of that. Well I’ve tried using all the medication the Dr prescribed and it truly help, but drinking all the medication ends up effecting my liver and its jaundice every second week even though I drink liver medication. Cannabis helps with the depression just as good as the prescription medication and my liver is fine.” The war on drug” the war on cannabis just because its a cheaper treatment. pharmaceutical company will loose millions but most of SA can’t afford to pay the ridiculous prices for medication. It’s made out to be so dangerous but it doesn’t brake up families it brings the closer together and it definitely doesn’t make you steel or murder some for money to buy some. The withdrawal symptoms oh damn there isn’t any. The government’s has one thing right about cannabis it makes you rebellious, it makes you rebel against the government trying deprive the people of what can help them. And so many other things it can be used for. When will they ever open their minds,

  13. Dr Yusuf Asmal September 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    I’m a medical doctor who is dedicated to his profession and family.

    After a long day of work I usually unwind with a cup of coffee and good conversation.

    There are times and patients that remain with you long after you have left them or in some cases after they have left you. Sometimes you want to forget, sometimes remember but most importantly reflect and to relax I sometimes smoke marijuana.

    None of the so called LEGAL options do it for me… I don’t gamble, I don’t drink alcohol nor do I wish to take so called calming medication. I don’t choose the “man made”cigarettes, I choose the plant that grows naturally all over the world.

    It’s never been a gateway drug to me nor has it led me to want to experiment with any harder drugs. I’ve smoked occasionally from the age of 16, right through my matric year and through medical school and upto the present day.

    I don’t have green fingers so unfortunately I can’t grow my own but I do know a Rasta who sells openly at a public safe environment clothing amongst other items.

    I bought cannabis from him for R100 and as I was walking to my car I was approached by 3 policeman who enquired if I had anything illegal with me. I admitted that I had weed for personal use and consumption. Despite that I was quoted section 140 and act so and so and after being searched, finger printed and subsequently arrested and thrown into a cell with common criminals who were there for rape, murder and house breaking amongst other things.

    Ironically 3 other people were also arrested for buying from the same Rasta. An under 19 sharks rugby player and a successful entrepreneur car salesman…
    While the Rasta remained free !!

    My question is Why arrest the user and not the dealer?

    I now have a criminal record and this now affects my entire professional career.

    I feel very aggrieved and I’m not sure if it’s rightly deserved or not.

    Public opinion please??

    • CJ December 3, 2014 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Hi Dr Yusuf,

      I am only replying to say that unfortunately until the government decriminalises the use of marijuana for personal use only, we will see many more cases of esteemed people falling prey to the clutches of the law. There is confusion behind what happens when you get caught and all of the circumstances involved, each case is taken separately and the main concern is, or should be: Have you ever sold? Do you distribute? Do you grow large amounts(more than 5 plants)?
      There is no grey area at the moment, get caught with any amount, and you might get bail, but you will get a fine and even a conviction.

      I look forward to a time when growing for personal use and smoking in your own privacy becomes a normal thing.

  14. Dennis :D September 1, 2014 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Be careful..
    Marijuana may cause:
    Intelligent thoughts, peacefulness, bliss, love and the feeling of oneness with your surroundings”

  15. Sammy!!! September 1, 2014 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Do you have depression ? Hit a blunt :D
    Do you have insomnia? Hit a blunt!!!!
    Do you have a broken leg? Hit a blunt!!
    Do you have a severe headache ? Hit a blunt !!
    Period pain ? Hit a blunt!!
    Legal or illegal, seriously.

    Weed helps ♥

    Forever a pot head !!!!!

    • Linda March 2, 2015 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Who ever you are !!! You must rock !!! Hit a blunt !!!

  16. Kelly August 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    I suffer from depression and insomnia therefore cannabis helps me more than sleeping tablets and anti-depressants ever could…

  17. john August 26, 2014 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Greetings, I am a 3rd year student in I.T, I have not given my true identity as I am quite paranoid about doing so because of my fear of incarceration, the reason I’m leaving an email is because iv found that cannabis helps me in many different ways. Since childhood iv had issues concentrating in class and paying attention. 3 years ago I discovered cannabis, and found that it helps me actually focus in class, and helps me get my studies done. Not only that but it helps me go to sleep at night, since it takes me 3 hours after iv climbed into bed to dose off, by then iv found that its a few more hours before I have my first class in the morning. It also helps me with my Anxiety, iv found that when I’m medicated my anxiety completely dissapears and I can enjoy any activity to its full potential without angst holding me back, so I am begging whom ever it may concern to please just look into the matter, I am tiered of having to smoke in secrecy and feeling like a criminal everytime I have to enter unsafe environments to purchase my meds. kind regards

  18. Alexander Dowding August 25, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    I have also sent letters to the Director-General of Health Ms Malebona Precious Matsoso (recently forwarded on to the Chief Director for Medicines Regulatory Authority & Registrar of Medicines at the Medicines Control Council), the Western Cape MEC for Health Minister Theuns Botha (forwarded for investigation by the Head of Department: Professor Craig Househam), the Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA), the Lung Institute at the University of Cape Town, the National Asthma Education Programme and I have asked three doctors about a prescription for cannabis for medical use.

    I will continue down this road exploring every avenue and turning every stone as long as it takes until I get what I need.

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