New Cannabis Council Appointments – But Where’s The Medicine?

Medical cannabis progress in Australia
Image: Greg Hunt (Twitter | BigStock

As Australian heads for 12 months since medical cannabis legislation was passed, progress is still occurring – but much too slowly for some.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced two new appointments to the Australian Advisory Council On The Medicinal Use of Cannabis last week.

Professor James Angus AO will be Chair the Advisory Council and Emeritus Professor Anne Tonkin has agreed to be Deputy Chair.

Professor Angus also leads the Independent Medical Advisory Committee on cannabis in Victoria. Professor Tonkin is the Director or the Medicine Learning and Teaching Unit at the University of Adelaide in South Australia and is Chair of the South Australian Medication Advisory Committee

It’s not clear what happened to the previous Chair, Dr Andrew Southcott. Dr. Southcott was a former Liberal MP who left politics to renew his medical career. His appointment as Chair stirred up some controversy.

The role of the Council is to provide expert advice to government on a number of medicinal cannabis issues. These areas include the implementation of regulations governing licensed cultivation and manufacture of medical marijuana locally, the design of medical prescribing guidelines and medical evidence supporting the use of cannabis in treating a variety of conditions.

While it’s another step forward, many patients who could benefit from cannabis-based medicines have become frustrated with the pace of change in Australia.

It was last February when medical cannabis legislation was passed; which has the goal of enabling the “safe, legal and reliable” supply of medicines based on locally cultivated products.

However, even back then the Government warned it would take some time to fully implement – and they’ve certainly been right about that.

For those waiting, it is possible to obtain products from overseas via an Authorised Prescriber (doctor with special authorisation) or through the Special Access Scheme (Category B); but the processes can be confusing, expensive and time consuming.

Well-known Australian medical cannabis campaigner, Lucy Haslam, was initially positive about the legislation, but recently stated the Government’s previous claim that it would be the “missing link” for patients “could not be further from the truth“.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt maintains the Government is on the right track; stating the production and supply of medicines must be approached in a very specific way.

“We recognise that access to medicinal cannabis is of vital importance to many Australians. But we must ensure this is done in a way that is safe and responsible,” said Minister Hunt.

The Minister stated the Federal Government is continuing to working towards the cultivation and manufacture of safe medicinal cannabis products that will have standardised dosing.

“I look forward to working with the Council so Australians can have confidence in the medicinal use of cannabis and help relieve the pain and suffering of our fellow Australians.”