Tasmania’s government has announced a medical cannabis program that makes the initiatives of other Australian states look rather weak by comparison.
By 2017, all specialist medical practitioners will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients in the state.
Unlike other programs being set up in Australia, which have very narrow initial application, eligibility will apply to any serious or chronic illnesses not responding to conventional treatment from the outset.
“This scheme will allow access to medical cannabis products grown lawfully under Commonwealth licenses, when they come onto the market, which is expected to be as early as 2017,” says a government statement.
“Importantly, the decision of whether or not this is an appropriate treatment for a particular condition for a particular patient will be initiated by specialist doctors.”
General practitioners will not be authorised to prescribe medications.
Once suitable products have been identified, patients with a prescription provided under the Controlled Access Scheme (CAS) will be able to buy the medications from their medical specialist or pharmacy. However, approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will still be required to access medical cannabis products given the green light under the scheme.
The Tasmanian Government says it is also continuing to work with its New South Wales counterpart on a partnership inked last year relating to collaboration on medical cannabis clinical trials, research and cultivation.
The Government also says it will work with local enterprise to maximise opportunities in relation to the cultivation of medical cannabis and manufacturing of medical products, which will occur under a national licensing scheme currently being developed by the Commonwealth Government.
“Tasmanian is well placed, I would suggest, given our experience in the cultivation and processing of poppies, to also be a leader in this space,” said Tasmania’ Premier, Will Hodgman.
The announcement has generally been greeted positively, albeit cautiously by some.
Greens spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said that it’s important treatment is available to people easily. Opposition spokeswoman Lara Giddings said there was concern from some Tasmanian parents already treating their epileptic children with cannabis medicines that pharmaceutical products may not be as “pure” as the products they are currently using.