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Victorian Medical Cannabis Patients Treated “Like Criminals”

Medical cannabis became legal in Australia in 2016. There are still significant hurdles for patients in Victoria (and elsewhere) 8 years on.

On 24 February 2016, amendments to Australia’s Narcotic Drugs Act were passed that in the words of the Federal Minister of Health at the time were “… the missing piece in a patient’s treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy.”

In 2024, there are locally-produced medicinal products available, although imported products are still very common. Also still prevalent are various challenges relating to access and use.

During Medicinal Cannabis Awareness Week 2024, which runs from February 19 – 25, Legalise Cannabis Victoria’s David Ettershank MP has drawn attention to a couple of ongoing issues in his state.

“This government have been accelerating drug detection operations at public transport stations, triggering fear for medicinal cannabis patients,” he said. “Victoria Police receive no training on how to properly deal with medicinal cannabis patients, let alone how to sensitively deal with patients identified by sniffer dogs.”

Another challenge for patients in Victoria and most other states and territories is that’s it’s an offence for a person to drive with any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their system. THC can stay in the body long after its effects have worn off – for weeks in some cases. This means that patients using legally prescribed medicines containing THC risk prosecution even if their driving is not affected in any way.

Mr Ettershank reminded the Victorian Government about its commitment to a trial investigating road safety risks associated with driving while using legal medical cannabis.

“One year on from former Premier Andrews’ commitment to reforming Victoria’s driving laws as ‘a priority’, the Government is yet to communicate any progress on their medicinal cannabis driving trial.”

Mr Ettershank also drew attention to a Swinburne University study released last week indicating there was negligible impact in simulated driving testing where patients took medicinal cannabis as prescribed.

“The Allan Government needs to explain why it continues to treat medicinal cannabis patients like criminals,” he said.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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