The relationship between the South African government and cannabis has been a changeable and tumultuous one for many decades. But now, a new change in the classification of CBD just made history.
As the world starts to come to terms with the new reality of cannabis legalization in North America and elsewhere, there’s a lot of confusion around as it turns out, that not all cannabis is equal. Cannabis is comprised of different compounds which have different effects when activated.
THC is the compound cannabis is best known for and the one that gets you high. CBD is a lesser-known compound that allegedly has medicinal qualities but offers no psychoactive effects. In recent years THC and CBD have been isolated, cultivated, and specially extracted to offer different cannabis experiences.
Studies carried out on CBD have been limited to date due to cannabis prohibition. The research that does exist though seems to show that CBD could be effective in treating a range of conditions. Anxiety, eczema, and chronic pain are just a few conditions that CBD can treat, while CBD is also used for more severe health conditions like Parkinson’s and Epilepsy. But CBD has been classified as Schedule 7 – akin to heroin and having no medicinal value.
However, according to Helen Michael – a director in the Healthcare & Life Sciences practice at Werksmans, CBD has been reclassified as Schedule 4. “The effect of the [South African] government notice is to remove CBD (that is not intended for therapeutic purposes) from Schedule 7 and to include it under Schedule 4 of the Medicines Act,” she said.
As Michael explained, the new amendment to the Schedule will mean that CBD will now be considered medicinal in South Africa. “Schedule 4 substances are, in turn, those substances that may be sold by pharmacists when presented with a written prescription,” she said.
Moreover, the amendment goes ever further and totally excludes “CBD preparations that contain a maximum daily dose of 20 milligrams and which do not claim to treat or cure any medical condition – but instead, contain a ‘low-risk claim or health claim.’”
It also excludes products which contain trace amounts of THC. “Notably, the exception contained in the exclusion notice is only valid for a period of 12 months from the date of signature of the notice (15 May 2019),” said Michael.
The changes to legislation in South Africa could have a massive effect on the medical cannabis industry in the country. According to the Businesstech report, “The changes have the potential to give rise to a significant expansion in the sphere of commercialization of CBD related products – which commercialization has, to date, been severely curtailed by the strict requirements applicable to schedule 7 substances.”
Michael added, “Whilst cannabis itself, as well as THC related products, continue to be strictly regulated, the notices arguably represent a shift in the perception on the role of cannabis-based substances in South Africa, particularly with reference to the medical relevance of such substances.”
It remains to be seen which way the tide will really turn in South Africa after the new Scheduling process. Many South Africans are very excited about the future, as South Africa joins countries like Israel and Canada by carrying out long-overdue research on cannabis and hemp.
The hope is that people in South Africa will have access to CBD instead of prescription medications that come with side effects and are addictive. It will now be interesting to see how this plays out in a country which shows a lot of potential for cannabis and CBD discovery.