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Medical cannabis – SA’s high hopes of a cash cow that blunts pain

The medical cannabis industry is a godsend for pain sufferers and could be the same for the economy and job creation, writes Alex Patrick for TimesLive. A young road accident victim has become the first South African to receive a legal prescription for medical marijuana.

Kwanda Mtetwa, who suffered serious multiple injuries in a 2011 motorbike crash, was so desperate for an alternative and safe pain treatment that he grew marijuana when it was still illegal to do so.

Now the 32-year-old has become the first South African to receive a legal prescription for medical marijuana, a growing industry that some believe could bolster economies, help people suffering from chronic pain and create jobs.

“I was bedridden for eight months and relying on heavy pain medication. My mood shifted and my character changed,” Mtetwa told TimesLive. I wasn’t eating and grew thin. The whole time the pain continued and I didn’t sleep for days.

“I was worried the meds would make me an addict. Two years down the line and they were burning my stomach. I started looking for an alternative pain relief.”

Mtetwa tried marijuana in 2014, but had adverse effects from heavy-metal crop sprays used by the illegal grower. So he began illegally cultivating his own and was finally freed from pain and the medication that made him ill.

Today he’s a medical cannabis activist lecturing at Cheeba Cannabis Academy. Mtetwa was introduced to Vaal grower CBD Full Spectrum last year and began taking marijuana legally as a patient. His prescription is for a hybrid strain known as Cheese.

According to the TimesLive story, published on 7 September 2021, he and other patients carry cannabis permit cards with a QR code authorities can scan to access the holder’s information and, as with other schedule six medication, the card is valid for six months.

Though the cannabis draft bill allows for the legal use and possession of marijuana, CBD Full Spectrum’s CEO Benny de Beer said the danger was that the composition of products was often unknown.

For a crop to meet medical-grade standard it must be tested to ensure no pesticides or harmful products were used. Its THC levels (Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive compound that gives the cannabis high) also have to be tested so doctors can prescribe the right strain for patients.

As a grower and cultivator, CBD Full Spectrum is the biggest in the industry, with five approved farms and another five awaiting approval. Its harvest is tested and categorised before being sold to international buyers and SA’s Releaf Pharmaceuticals, a company that meets SA Health Products Regulatory Authority and Complementary and Alternative Medicines requirements.

Patients buy their medication from these approved pharmacists. The hope is that medical marijuana will eventually be sold in regular pharmacies.

Dr Benny Malakoane, who prescribed Mtetwa’s marijuana, said: When a doctor prescribes for medical use, they do so as they would for any other medication – the dosage, the strain, frequency and time of day are all specified to treat the ailment.”

Malakoane specialises in pain relief and experienced the herb for the first time this year. “We were to start giving it to patients, so I needed to be able to tell the patients what the experience would be. I took 0.05ml of activated cannabis oil and felt nothing for two hours. Then it hit. The next day I woke up feeling wonderful.”

He prescribes marijuana in 0.5g/ml doses from three strains known for their indica, which induces relaxation, and sativa, which tends to enhance energy levels.

See the link to the full TimesLive story below.


TimesLive story – High hopes for potential cash cow that blunts pain (Open access)


See also from the MedicalBrief archives


Patients hopeful for France's medical cannabis experiment


Doctors still reluctant to prescribe medical cannabis – Canadian study


Medical cannabis in SA: Weighing the evidence


Medical cannabis provides symptom relief for a myriad of complaints


Medical cannabis cuts chronic pain in the elderly without adverse effects




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