Victoria has beaten NSW to the punch and legalised locally-produced medicinal cannabis products from 2017.
State Premier Dan Andrews announced the decision yesterday (October 6) to make cannabis available to people in “exceptional circumstances”.
This includes treatment for: muscle spasm or severe pain from multiple sclerosis; severe pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting from cancer or HIV/AIDS; epileptic seizures where other treatments have failed; and for people suffering severe chronic pain, where two specialists have granted approval.
Mr Andrews said he was delivering on an election commitment to allow medicinal cannabis for terminally ill people.
“I’ve seen first-hand how medicinal cannabis can change people’s lives,” he said. “This landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.”
The decision also heralds the birth of cannabis cultivation and manufacturing industries in Victoria, necessary in order to establish an ongoing, reliable supply for patients.
The government will begin a cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility, to be overseen by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
This department will gain new powers to regulate licensed growers who are cultivating cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The go-ahead follows a report by the Victorian Law Reform Commissioner, who was asked to explore how the law could be changed to help those in severe pain to safely access medicinal cannabis.
The Commissioner’s Report on Medicinal Cannabis, tabled in Parliament tabled yesterday, includes 42 recommendations and addresses key issues including:
• Cultivation, manufacture and supply of high quality medicinal cannabis products within Victoria
• Patient eligibility
• Appropriate clinical oversight involving specialists, general practitioners, nurses and pharmacists
• The need for ongoing research and clinical trials
A new Office of Medicinal Cannabis will be establish within the Department of Health and Human Services with the remit of overseeing the manufacture and dispensing of cannabis, as well as developing clinical guidance and encouraging new research.
NSW Premier Mike Baird approved clinical trials of medicinal cannabis for terminally ill adults in July this year, but they will not start until early 2016.
Meanwhile, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Johns, congratulated Mr Andrews but also pushed for a national medicinal cannabis scheme.
“State by state regulation means a person’s access to pain relief is determined by where they live,” Mr Joseph said.
“The registration and scheduling of medicines is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. There are also a range of other implications related to possession, trafficking and supply of cannabis in federal laws.
“Labor believes in a national approach based on medical science, not prejudice.”