Medical Cannabis Legislation Defeated In New South Wales

Medical marijuana in New South Wales
Cannabis Image: JonRichfield - CC BY-SA 3.0

Legislation that would have decriminalised possession of small amounts of medical cannabis by seriously and terminally ill people in the Australian state of New South Wales has been voted down.

Tabled in February by the Labor Party, the legislation sought to decriminalise possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis for use by registered patients for the treatment of chronic and serious medical conditions.

The legislation involved photo identification and certification issued by New South Wales Health and provided for flexibility in amounts able to be possessed, plus a mechanism for the safe and lawful supply of product.

“Those who are suffering from terminal and serious medical conditions deserve sympathy and support- and they should not be treated like a criminal for seeking respite from relentless and unwaivering illness,” said Opposition Leader Luke Foley; who has been an advocate of medicinal marijuana for years.

“By refusing to pass this legislation, the NSW Government has put up an unnecessary hurdle for sufferers of terminal and chronic illnesses.”

Labor’s legislation was based on key recommendations from a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry in 2013 that received support from five political parties – including the Liberal Party.

Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council Adam Searle said defeat of the legislation was a tragedy and Labor would now pursue the issue with the Council, in the hope it will provide support.

The Legislative Assembly Hansard entry concerning the debate and subsequent vote can be viewed here and wording of Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2017 here.

The New South Wales Government has implemented a Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme; but that only covers patients with a terminal illness. It provides guidelines for NSW Police Force officers to exercise discretion with regard to charging registered adults and their carers found possessing cannabis.

However, this doesn’t mean police won’t lay charges and the threat of prosecution is an added stress patients simply don’t need.

News of progress on medical cannabis in New South Wales has been rather thin in recent months. The last significant announcement was in relation to expansion of a trial examining the potential of a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in addressing chemotherapy related nausea.