SA to consider legalising medical marijuana


20 February 2014

The South African government is to look into the possibility of legalising the medical use of marijuana, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said during the second day of parliamentary debate on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The followed a special plea to Zuma by Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who was last year diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, to consider making it legal in South Africa to use marijuana for medical reasons, saying not to do so would be a “crime against humanity”.

While tempers often flare in Parliament during fiery debates between the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and opposition parties, Ambrosini’s moving address drew a standing ovation from all members of the house.

Ambrosini said that decriminalising marijuana for medical use would not only help millions of South Africans who were suffering from his condition, but would also contribute to transforming the country’s health sector.

“Mr President, you have known me for 20 years … I am speaking to you today somehow a changed man, not to curse you, but to plead with you to provide a voice for many people with my condition.”

Sisulu, responding a short while later, said: “Mr Ambrosini, I have worked with you for many years and it hurts me to see you in the state that you are in. I had a word, as you were speaking, with [Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi], and he indicates to me we are really keen to follow up on the discussion and research around the world on the issue of the potential of decriminalising medical marijuana. We are a caring society.”

Addressing the house earlier, Motsoaledi said South Africa had successfully rolled out an HIV/Aids campaign that was being modelled around the world, and would do the same, going forward, with other diseases.

He said a new war had been declared on cervical cancer. According to statistics, cervical cancer affects over 6 000 women annually, with just over half of these cases resulting in death.

Motsoaledi said 80% of cervical cancer victims were African women and that the disease was more likely to affect women who were HIV-positive. It is propagated by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

“Honourable Speaker, Human Papilloma Virus has a vaccine. It is called the HPV vaccine. The World Health Organisation advises us to vaccinate sexually naive young girls.

“I am happy to announce that we are ready to vaccinate young girls against this disease from March this year. We shall vaccinate all the grade 4 learners in public schools. This will then happen every subsequent year in our schools – it will be a feature of any grade 4 class from this year and forever.”