Queensland’s Government Seeks To Accelerate Medical Cannabis Access

Medicinal cannabis in Queensland
Image: DavidCardinez

In the Australian state of Queensland, a bill has been introduced to Parliament that aims to provide seriously ill Queenslanders with faster access to medical cannabis.

Currently in the state, specialists or a GP in consultation with a specialist must contact Queensland Health to apply for approval to prescribe medical cannabis. Additionally, an application must also be made to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for approval to allow supply.

The changes would repeal the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 and see medicinal cannabis products classified as either schedule 8 or the more lightly regulated schedule 4 medicines.

Schedule 8 drugs are prescription medicines considered to have a higher potential for misuse, abuse and dependence – and are tightly controlled.  Some would say this still remains overkill for cannabis, but the Government believes this is a step in the right direction.

“Our Government is committed to improving pathways for Queensland patients to access medicinal cannabis and this new legislation joins some of the most progressive laws in the country,” said Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles.

Saying the move is designed to both help and protect patients, Mr. Miles stated the changes will remove the requirement for state-level approval, leaving it to Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) oversight and removing duplication of processes. He also called for a nationally consistent approach to medical cannabis and for the TGA to take charge of the prescription process.

The changes are a part of the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. Queenslanders hoping for changes soon will be disappointed as it won’t be debated until next year, and even if passed it won’t make accessing medical cannabis easy per se – just a bit easier.

Some other Australian states already gone down a similar path to Queensland. For example, in March this year, New South Wales made changes to prescription approvals being required by both the Commonwealth and NSW Health,  replacing it with a single clinical assessment by the TGA.

Legislation was passed in Australia to enable the “safe, legal and reliable” supply of medicinal cannabis products in February 2016.