Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2014
Source: Star, The (South Africa)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers 2014
Author: Marianne Merten
Page: 6


IN AN EMOTIONAL plea for a change to the law, IFP MP Mario
Oriani-Ambrosini yesterday admitted he was using dagga as part of his
fight against the terminal cancer he was diagnosed with almost a year

"I was supposed to die many months ago. I am here because I had the
courage of seeking alternatives in Italy in the form of bicarbonate of
soda and here in South Africa in the form of cannabis, marijuana,
dagga," Oriani-Ambrosini said, adding: "It is a crime against humanity
not to allow this."

The IFP MP announced he had just submitted a private member's bill to
allow doctors greater discretion on what treatments to prescribe to
terminally ill patients, including medical marijuana or bicarbonate of

Oriani-Ambrosini does not smoke the dagga but takes it in the form of
an oil as part of the alternative cancer treatment he embarked on last
April after being diagnosed with terminal stage-four lung cancer.

"I have to speak out. I have had opportunities which are withheld from
others. Someone has to speak up in the first person," he told The Star.

During his four minutes on the National Assembly podium, the
ministerial adviser to IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi during his
stint as home affairs minister also pointed out an advocate in the
public gallery who had instructions to take the government to court to
push for the legalisation of medical marijuana, as is permitted, for
example, in 20 US states.

Last month, France's Health Ministry gave the nod to medical
marijuana, thus falling in line with similar approved treatment in 17
other European countries.

However, Oriani-Ambrosini, who battled to speak with a hoarse voice
and who clearly had lost a great deal of weight, said he had advised
against court action, instead punting his private member's Medical
Innovation Bill.

His appeal appeared to have found an ear. Public Service and
Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who followed him in the
debate, announced that she and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who
had earlier listened attentively, had just had a word.

"We are very keenly following up the potential of decriminalising
medical marijuana. We are a caring society," said Sisulu, adding on a
personal note to someone she had worked with: "It hurts me to see you
in the state you are in."

At the start of his speech, Oriani-Ambrosini had turned to the ANC
side of the House to directly address President Jacob Zuma. "You've
known me for 20 years and I'm sure you had a few occasions to curse my
name" and proceeded with an appeal to help "people (who) are dying of
bad policies and bad laws we can change".

Later, he also had a word or two for Motsoaledi. "I admire our
minister of health. He has guts and backbone..." He said the pandemic
of cancer had to be fought, highlighting the disease's connection with
carbohydrates, particularly sugar.

While not supporting a sugar tax, he said changing mindsets and
education on diet, regaining control of bodies and having various
treatment options was a must  regardless of the challenges.
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MAP posted-by: Matt