NSW medicinal cannabis bill fails

The NSW Government has voted down Labor legislation that would decriminalise cannabis possession.

The proposed legislation was to ensure that sufferers of terminal and serious medical conditions who rely on medicinal cannabis to ease their pain, would no longer be treated as criminals. The legislation would also create the mechanism to create a safe and lawful supply chain of product, to make access a practical reality for sufferers.

The legislation sought to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis (up to 15 grams) for treatment of chronic and serious medical conditions for medically certified sufferers and their carers, requiring them to receive photo identification and medical certification from NSW Health in order to possess medicinal cannabis. These amounts could be adjusted by regulation, according to medical treatment need.

Currently, people who purchase cannabis to alleviate the pain and distress associated with chronic and terminal illnesses face criminal penalties under the Crimes Act (1900).

The proposed legislation adopted the key recommendations from a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which received unanimous support from five political parties including NSW Labor, Liberal Party, National Party, the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

“The unanimous recommendations of the Parliamentary inquiry were delivered in 2013,” said Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council Adam Searle. “Labor has always been ready, willing and able to work with the NSW Government to make access to medicinal cannabis a reality.”

“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 unwavering illness,” said Opposition Leader Luke Foley.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Government has denied legislation that will restore dignity to those people seeking temporary relief from the pain and suffering of their affliction.”

A number of other states have already legalised medicinal cannabis use (including Victoria and the ACT), and at one point NSW was expected to  overtake Victoria with the legislation.

Illnesses that would be taken to be terminal or serious medical conditions:

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV);
  • motor neurone disease;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • the neurological disorder known as stiff person syndrome;
  • severe and treatment-resistant nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy;
  • pain associated with cancer;
  • neuropathic pain;
  • an illness or condition declared by the regulations to be a terminal or serious medical condition.


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