Joburg pharmacy in tug-of-war with SAPS over seized cannabis

A pharmacy in Glenanda, South of Johannesburg, has drawn the ire of regulators for selling medical cannabis products, allegedly without the required legal approvals.

THC Pharmacy is licensed by the South African Pharmacy Council to operate a community pharmacy in Glenanda.

It serves as a dispensary for users of medical cannabis. This despite the industry watchdog claims that this fact was not disclosed in its application to be a community pharmacy.

Its medical cannabis is supplied by an entity called CBD Full Spectrum Manufacturers International. Spectrum holds a licence to cultivate cannabis, issued by South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).

Pharmacy dispenses medicinal cannabis

THC Pharmacy has been serving about 700 patients monthly. It dispenses medical cannabis products to them, pursuant to prescriptions from doctors.

This was until Sahpra and the South African Pharmacy Council raided the premises in March 2023. Following the raid, Sahpra determined that there were several contraventions of the Medicine Act that constituted criminal offences.

The inspectors then decided that THC Pharmacy’s facility was a crime scene. They called the police, who then seized materials of evidence value from the premises.

THC took umbrage at the involvement of police and the seizure of its products. This particularly as the police did not have a search warrant.

The pharmacy successfully petitioned the South Gauteng High Court to compel the police to return the goods within 10 days.

SAPS called in to raid premises and seize the cannabis

“At the time when the SAPS took over the scene, Sahpra and the council had just concluded their joint inspection and were in the process of deciding the next steps. They were effectively (from a practical and probably legal perspective) precluded, to date, from making and communicating any decision on the seizure of the relevant articles,” acting judge Vlad Movshovich ruled on Wednesday He ordered the police to pay the costs of the lawsuit.

“The order for the SAPS to return possession of the relevant articles to the applicant should thus be made. [This will be] subject to any steps that Sahpra and/or Council may decide to take. I am prima facie of the view that an order in those terms would be just and equitable in the current circumstances.”

SAPS ordered to return seized cannabis (may still be seized again)

However, Movshovich left it open for Sahpra and the pharmacy council to follow due process. This means they can still seize the items upon their return to the Pharmacy by SAPS.

Medicinal cannabis is legal in South Africa. However, you can only obtain medicinal cannabis via a Section 21 application to the Sahpra.

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