Australian Medical Cannabis Legislation Passes

Australia cannabis legislation passes
Cannabis Image: BigStock

Legislation has been passed in Australia to enable the “safe, legal and reliable” supply of medicinal cannabis products.

Announced by Minister for Health Sussan Ley just a couple of hours ago,  amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act will provide a framework for legally-grown cannabis to be used in the manufacture of medical marijuana products in Australia.

The amendments were passed reasonably quickly. Originally announced in October, the legislation was introduced just two weeks ago and had broad support.

“This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals,” Minister Ley said.

“This is 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.”

An Advisory Committee will now be established to assist in the setting up of a National Regulator that will be charged with the task of tracking the development of cannabis products; from cultivation to supply.

The passed legislation has been developed in a way that Australia will continue to meet its obligations under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – a convention that has always permitted the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Ms Ley also stated that having cannabis for medicinal purposes considered for down-scheduling to Schedule 8 of the Poisons Schedule was also well under way. An interim decision from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is due in March 2016.

However, even if that decision is favourable; Schedule 8 would still place medical cannabis in the same category of drugs including morphine – meaning its availability will be greatly restricted.

Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale cautiously welcomed the passage of the legislation, again stating it was the first piece of the puzzle rather than *the* missing piece.

“The Greens believe medicinal cannabis needs to be available to every patient who needs it,” said Senator Di Natale.

“Creating a national framework for cultivation and manufacture is an important step but much more still needs to be done. This bill does nothing to change the fact that cannabis is scheduled as an illegal drug that cannot be prescribed by a doctor.”

Dr Di Natale isn’t being critical for the sake of it. He has been at the forefront of pushing for change in legislation relating to medical cannabis for years.