In the Australian state of Queensland, eligible patients will have faster access to medicinal cannabis under new laws – but access still won’t be fast or easy.
Passed in State Parliament on Wednesday night, the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 has been repealed in favour of new legislation seeing cannabis (still inexplicably) either treated the same as other “drugs of addiction” – meaning Schedule 8 – or (more realistically) Schedule 4; prescription drugs.
The legislation, originally introduced in November last year, removes the need for state as well as federal prescription approval. The Palaszczuk Government first allowed doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients in 2015, which preceded federal medical cannabis legislation implemented the following year.
In July last year, things were streamlined a little, when Queensland doctors seeking approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis started being able to do so via the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) online system; which fulfilled the requirements for both the TGA and Queensland Health – previously two separate processes.
“Now that the treatment has progressed, it makes sense for a nationally consistent approach and for the Therapeutic Goods Administration to take carriage of the prescription process,” said Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles.
Among the other catches, non-specialist medical practitioners will still require a state based approval for Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis products.
Generally speaking, medicinal cannabis may be approved if patients have first tried conventional treatments available for “a reasonable period of time” and these have failed – or if conventional treatment proves to have a negative impact on the patient. In Queensland, medical cannabis cannot be smoked, but vaporisation is permissible along with other administration methods such as ingestion of certain types of products. It is illegal for any Queensland patient being treated with medicinal cannabis containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to drive while undergoing treatment.
More information on medical cannabis in Queensland can be found here, but at the time of writing documentation had not yet been updated to reflect the recent change in laws.
Queensland isn’t the first state to drop the need for state approval. In March this year, New South Wales made similar changes.
While the state approval hurdle has (generally) been removed, we reported recently that Australian Greens leader Dr. Richard Di Natale believes the current pathway through which Australians access medicinal cannabis via the TGA “is a mess“.
Dr. Di Natale wishes to see an independent national regulatory system for medicinal cannabis, which could approve products, register patients and carry out other functions.