The spike in cannabis-based products sold online has come as a shock to many South African’s systems, with products ranging from oils to chocolates and even beverages. This spike has, at least in part, occurred due to a strong international demand for natural remedies – which cannabis-based products often tap into. In South Africa, the growth of the cannabis-based product industry has arguably come about after the Constitutional Court on 18 September 2018 handed down judgment in the application for the confirmation of an order of constitutional invalidity made by the Cape Town High Court – which declared legislation criminalising the use, possession, purchase and cultivation of cannabis unconstitutional.
However, according to a summary of the Constitutional Court ruling, while the judgement made particular reference to the decriminalisation of the use or possession of cannabis by an adult, in private, for that adult person’s personal consumption in private, and essentially decriminalised the cultivation of cannabis by adults in a private place for his/her personal consumption in private, the ruling made no specific judgement on the legality of various quantities for consumption or possession at any given time.
Accordingly, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has warned that although some cannabis-based products are legal that does not mean all are.
“When it comes to the cannabis-containing medicines, the minister of health published an exclusion notice excluding certain cannabidiol (CBD) containing preparations from the control of the schedules and we allowed those for sale,” said head of the names & scheduling unit at SAHPRA, Momeena Omarjee.
“[However] what’s happening now is products that are in contravention of the Act, the schedules to the Act and the exclusion notice are being sold in outlets and online.”
She continued, specifying that certain CBD-based products have a maximum daily dose if they are only making general health awareness claims in an official capacity. Omarjee cautioned that anyone, or any company, claiming to treat and cure a disease or symptom would have to see their product verified and registered with SAHPRA.
“The CBD containing medicines are allowed in a maximum daily dose of 20mg per day and with this you can make a general health awareness claim…. [but] as soon as you make a medicinal or therapeutic claim to treat or cure a disease or symptom, it [the product] has to be registered with SAHPRA. It [the product] has to have registration and SAHPRA needs to evaluate the quality, safety and efficacy of the products,” said Omarjee.
SAHPRA has urged the public to make the regulatory authority aware of any products potentially in contravention of the law.