Australia’s Government has introduced legislation it describes as the “missing piece” needed to enable access to medicinal cannabis products sourced from locally cultivated cannabis.
The Turnbull Government announced its intentions in December last year to introduce the legislation.
“This is an important day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products,” said Minister for Health Sussan Ley.
“Importantly, having a safe, legal and reliable source of products will ensure medical practitioners are now at the centre of the decision making process on whether medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for their patient.”
While medicinal cannabis products can be imported legally under certain conditions now, the products can be difficult to acquire and very expensive.
Australia is also a signatory to the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, but the Convention has always allowed for the use of cannabis for medical purposes. It states:
“The use of cannabis for other than medical and scientific purposes must be discontinued as soon as possible”.
Further complicating the situation has been the situation that industrial hemp, from which non-intoxicating medicinal compounds such as cannabidiol can be extracted, has very little of the intoxicating compound tetrahydrocannibinol. However, as a member of the cannabis family, industrial hemp has been lumped in with THC-heavy marijuana.
Ms. Ley believes the new legislation will be well received from all sides of politics.
If the legislation passes, the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 will be amended to establish an authority within the Department of Health to oversee cultivation of medical cannabis. Medical cannabis products will be prescribed by a doctor, or as part of clinical trials.
Minister Ley believes a nationally-consistent cultivation scheme, rather than each state setting its own laws, will help speed up the legislative and regulatory process. If the necessary legislative reforms occur at Commonwealth, state and territory levels, medicines made from Australian grown medicinal cannabis crops could be available as early as 2017.
“I sincerely hope the Parliament can continue to work together to pass this legislation in a bipartisan fashion as quickly as possible in the interest of Australian patients seeking access to medicinal cannabis,” said Minister Ley.
Further information on the legislation: