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Online cannabis clinics cut through the red tape

A new development in SA’s medical marijuana industry is the establishment of the country’s first online cannabis clinics.

It’s a new health tech portal allowing patients to book a virtual consultation with a healthcare practitioner trained in medicinal cannabis use, and facilitates the process right through to delivery – anywhere in the country.

“A group of us got together when the laws changed and looked at international markets and how they were working. And then we looked at how we could bring that learning into the South African context,” said Craig Ludwig, chief strategy officer at Cannabis Clinics.

Sunday Times reports that while cannabis use, both medical and recreational, is legal in SA, the main barrier blocking easy use is that it is a schedule six unregistered medication, requiring strict controls according to Section 21 of the Medicines & Related Substances Act.

This means every individual application for medical cannabis has to be approved by the South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) — a complicated process.

“We want to give people access as well as peace of mind, and the assurance they’re getting consistent levels of dosage and ingredients,” said Ludwig.

“Patients and doctors can register on the health tech portal, and we facilitate that link, enabling virtual consultations, SAHPRA registrations, scripts and even couriered delivery of the medication.”

He said people were naturally curious about cannabis use, and when they follow that interest they generally go down one of two paths. “One is the kitchen brew avenue, where they get stuff from someone who’s cooked it up in her own kitchen. The problem with that is it’s inconsistent. You don’t know what you are getting or what’s actually in it — much less the dosage.

“With the medicinal use path, you know the product comes from standard, regulated medical-grade facilities where things are controlled and science has been followed.”

Cannabis Clinics linked up with RecoMed to design and build a patient-to-doctor consultation programme on an online platform.

Medicinal cannabis contains CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD has no psychoactive chemicals and is freely available, but the use of THC is tightly controlled.

Medicinal cannabis products range from oil, sprays, capsules and vapes to dried flowers, widely used in the management of health conditions such as cancer symptoms, chronic pain, epilepsy, palliative care and mental health issues like anxiety and insomnia.

Janet O’Donoghue, a traditional cannabis health practitioner and founder of the South African Cannabis Community and Regulatory Association, said though she had not heard about the new development in online medical cannabis clinics, she was opposed to the “colonisation of the internet” in a legal process that should instead follow a “self-regulation model at community level with proper education and training”.

“Raw cannabis is a natural product with extracts that are not prescribable. So those who are selling medical cannabis are ripping patients off left, right and centre,” she said, in some cases giving patients synthetic cannabinoids rather than natural compounds.


Sunday Times article – Joint venture: health tech portal makes access to cannabis products easier (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


First SA cannabis clinical trial for pain management kicks off


Cannabis law reform: experts cite possible public health consequences


Little evidence of cannabis efficacy for chronic pain relief – US DoH systematic review


South Africa’s first legal medicinal cannabis pharmacy is open for business


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