The use of cannabis oil in South Africa

There is an abundance of cannabis oils available in South Africa. Maria Waskow explains the legalities and shares her simplified guide to purchase cannabis oil.

Is cannabis oil legal?

Before I am accused of inciting any illegalities, let me remind you that purchasing any part of the cannabis plant – its derivatives (oils) and isomers thereof – is still a criminal offence.

Despite the media frenzy that followed Judge Davis’ recent ruling, no laws have changed and no legislation has been amended. Currently, as the law is written, if you’re found to be trading cannabis and/or cannabis products, you’re still deemed delinquent by the state.

Until otherwise notified, do not presume your innocence. Yes, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) has re-scheduled the substance and the Constitutional Court is expected to rule in our favour (legalise the oil) but that does not mean you cannot be charged with a criminal offence.

What is it used for?

The plant is incredibly diverse leading to varied uses. This leads scientists down a nefarious path of assumption-based medicine. There are a small body of reliable placebo-controlled clinical studies pointing toward the palliative care cannabis oils can provide. This does not exclude other applications nor dismiss the evidence in support thereof, but it is important to remember the standard to which the health sector   must abide.

There is a large interest in the treatment of cancers, however, many medical users report benefits and, in some cases, claim outright curative properties for various chronic conditions, especially neurological disorders.

Due to the large interest in the treatment of cancers, research is steadily gaining momentum. Many people use the oils as a pain reliever in palliative care cases, antiemetic with chemotherapy and some simply use it as ‘prevention’.

The medical community is still undecided and, in most cases, blatantly opposed to the medical claims many make. However, the evidence is plain to see for many and it won’t be long before Western science begins to uncover the intricacies of the plant and its medical application.

Safety first

There are important factors that need to be considered when purchasing cannabis oil. Safety has to be the first priority. If the medicine has been over heated, it turns carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer). If it hasn’t been heated enough, the oil will cause psychedelic effects when passing through the liver. The liver literally becomes your body’s rubbish dump and will retain any solvents from the oil.


To establish if the oil is safe, it has to be clean and totally free of solvents. This is impossible if the oil is being extracted with anything other than pure alcohol.

Ask your supplier to describe their extraction process. If they say they extract using the Rosin or RSO process, I recommend you end the call and move on. I state, with conviction, that I will never ingest oil extracted with these methods. The residue remains and no matter how long the oil is heated, it does not release the smell and taste of benzene.

The safest way is for your ‘supplier’ to be extracting using carbon dioxide (C02), or pure organic alcohol (Mampoer) extraction, using liquid nitrogen for separation.

There are other ways to extract oil, however, that is a whole other subject.


There are different oils for different conditions. Some oils are high in only cannabidiol oil (CBD), while other oils are high in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is not only the psychedelic part but it is also what drives the healing process, especially in cancers.


  1. Ask for an explanation of the extraction process. If they are heating, ask about temperature and duration. One hour is the maximum at 130 °C. Anything more can be carcinogenic. The freezing process is better, in my opinion.
  2. Examine the smell. Acquaint yourself with what benzene smells like.
  3. Assess the colour. It should be gold. No green what so ever. Green oil denotes that the leafy parts of the plant were used thus getting questionable medicinal quality. The medicine is in the flowers.
  4. Less is more. Avoid using the raw ‘Marmite-like-tar’. I find when using oil/tar in a syringe, it is often wasteful. Blending down the resin with olive, castor, coconut or cocoa butter is advised as the safest way.
  5. Ingest the oil orally or via the rectum for the best results.
  6. Ask when the ‘supplier’ decarboxylates the oil. The correct answer is after the solvent is already removed.
  7. I recommend that you pay no more than R1500 per 3 grams of resin, and that your resin to be blended 1 part resin; 9 parts preferred oil.
  8. Unfortunately there are unscrupulous cannabis oil suppliers, who know just how desperate you are and may possibly tell you exactly what they know you need to hear, so please do adequate research.
cannabis oil south africa

MEET OUR EXPERT – Maria Waskow

Maria Waskow is a herbalist and spiritual teacher based in Johannesburg, Gauteng.

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