Children in the Australian state of Victoria who have severe, drug-resistant epilepsy may have access to cannabis-based medications as early as next year.
Earlier today, the Victorian State Government announced a $28.5 million package that will help to establish the Office of Medicinal Cannabis and an Independent Medical Advisory Committee.
The fast-tracked funding will also support a cannabis cultivation trial that is already under way, regulation, product development and the creation of guidance material for health professionals, manufacturers and the general public.
As part of the Medical Advisory Committee’s activities, patients and their families will be consulted on product selections and the potential expansion of patient eligibility. The latter is important as medical cannabis appears to have the potential to treat or manage the symptoms of a broad range of conditions beyond severe epilepsy. According to the ABC, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said patients with multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and cancer were likely to be next in line.
“We promised families that their children would be able to access this life-changing treatment as early as next year, and we’re getting it done,” said Premier Andrews.
“Never again will families have to make the heart-breaking choice between watching their children suffer and breaking the law.”
Grants for research will also be provided under the package.
The state legalised access to medical cannabis last week, which has since put pressure on other states to follow Victoria’s lead.
There are few details about the cannabis cultivation trial in Victoria that was mentioned – as with the recent announcement in New South Wales, locations are understandably kept secret.
“Our cannabis cultivation trial will be the first of its kind in Australia and once again Victoria is leading the way,” said Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford.
“This will deliver life-changing treatment to those who really need it most.”
As with any new medication, treatment can be quite expensive. Minister for Health Jill Hennessy says the funding package will also incorporate a hardship fund to help ensure patients are not disadvantaged because of their financial status.
Some further detail on the Victorian Medicinal Cannabis Access scheme can be viewed here.
Australians appear more than ready to accept medical marijuana. According to the Victorian Government, research indicates 91 per cent of Australians believe the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes should be legal.