Marijuana, also known as cannabis, refers to a plant species that contains chemical compounds with therapeutic potential.
The two main components found in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use, while CBD offers potential health benefits without inducing a psychoactive effect.
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Unleashing the potential of cannabis Speaking to The Witness, Nagindra Maharaj (pictured), who is the co-owner of CannaSpensary in Raisethorpe, Pietermaritzburg, said the medical benefits of cannabis were not fully explored.
Cannabis has had the stigma of being a drug and an addictive substance, but in truth, when used the right way and administered in the right doses it has absolutely magnificent potential when it comes to health benefits.
Maharaj, who is registered with the African Dealers Association, said his interest in marijuana was sparked in 2016 after he used some cannabis products for medical purposes and got good results.
He said cannabis products are classified in terms of schedule 4, schedule 7 and schedule 0.
“Schedule 0 products are what we focus on the most in our store because it doesn’t require us to have any specific license to sell or administer the products to patients or customers.”
He said this is because cannabis is a psychoactive product and you don’t want to give people products that will get them high or change their thought processes.
Maharaj said the products they administer are either approved by the South African Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (Saphra) or are made in accordance with guidelines set by Saphra.
“Many of the recognized laboratories and facilities are located in Cape Town. They are ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to cannabis; many activists come from there and are really passionate about it”.
Medicinal potential of cannabis Cannabis has a long history of medicinal use, dating back thousands of years.
In recent years, scientific research has begun to reveal the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its components. It has shown promise in treating various conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, nausea, and even some mental disorders.
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How cannabis works in the body Maharaj explained that we all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS).
He said the ECS regulates and controls many of our most critical bodily functions such as learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and eating .
He said the ECS is responsible for keeping your body in balance like regulating mood, sleep, eating patterns, etc.
When you take any CBD product, it interacts with your endocannabinoid system. Once the interaction starts to occur, which according to research is over two weeks of continuous use, your endocannabinoid system actually reaches equilibrium.
“We’ve found that it helps regulate things like sugar levels, high or low blood pressure, and eating and sleeping habits, just to name a few.
“Unfortunately, our bodies do not produce CBD, as a result, CBD must be taken as a supplement. That’s why there are many regulations in terms of the dosage you can take,” she said.
Maharaj said that in terms of the legislation governing cannabis, they are not allowed to claim that cannabis products cure anything or replace any other drug.
However, she said she has seen “amazing” results and heard patient testimonials about how cannabis products, when administered correctly and used continuously and in combination with medications prescribed by doctors, have produced astounding results.
Maharaj said cannabis is new to the market; and there is still much research to be done.
Maharaj and his wife are now in the process of registering with the Department of Health and Saphra for a research program in which they will be allowed to dispense scheduled cannabis for medicinal and research purposes and administer schedule 4 and schedule 7 drugs.
Regulations Maharaj said over the next three to five years, SA should be on par with the rest of the world in terms of how we regulate cannabis, the products made from it and how we can tax the industry.
He said they are now in talks with political figures about ways cannabis can be regulated, taxed and contribute to the country’s growth. Hopefully, we will see a huge improvement in this area of cannabis. This will also help regulate the prices of cannabis products.
Our country needs to move faster to regulate the entire industry and to control all products that come from the factory.
In a research article by several medical professionals that was published in the South African Medical Journal, entitled: “What professionals need to know about medical cannabis”, he reported that cannabis products are subject to variability, which is underpins the strict application of the Medicines and Related Substances Act of SAHPRA.
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