Victoria to Legalise Medicinal Cannabis
6 October 2015 at 3:58 pm
Victoria will be the first Australian state to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis following a report to the Andrews Government by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.
The Government has announced it will legalise access to locally manufactured medicinal cannabis products for use in exceptional circumstances from 2017.
Prior to the election, Labor committed to this change, saying no family should have to choose between breaking the law and watching their loved ones suffer.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission was asked to advise how to amend the law in order to allow people in exceptional circumstances to safely access medicinal cannabis products.
The Government said it fully accepts 40 of the Commission’s 42 recommendations, and accepts two recommendations in principle.
“A key step to enabling access to medicinal cannabis will be to establish cultivation and manufacturing industries in Victoria to support an ongoing and reliable supply of medicinal cannabis for patients,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“The Government will begin a cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility which is overseen the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.”
The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources will also be given new regulatory functions to license growers to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of medicinal cannabis.
As a priority, the Premier said the Government would provide access to medicinal cannabis for children with severe epilepsy in early 2017.
The Government also accepted the Commission’s recommendation to establish an independent medical advisory committee on medicinal cannabis which will provide advice about expanding eligibility to further patient groups.
The Government will establish an Office of Medicinal Cannabis within the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the manufacturing, dispensing and clinical aspects of the framework.
The Office of Medicinal Cannabis will also help encourage new research and develop clinical guidance, in consultation with the medical profession.
Earlier this year, the Victorian Government partnered with the NSW Government to enable the participation of Victorians in its clinical trials set to commence in 2016. To help build the evidence base, the Government is also working to establish a Victorian-based clinical trial.
The Law Reform Commission recommend medicinal cannabis should be available under special, limited circumstances to treat a variety of conditions but that it should not be available to smoke.
The Commission recommended that licensed cultivators and manufacturers be able to produce medicinal cannabis products under laws like those used for Victoria’s opium poppy industry.
It said medicinal cannabis products would be sold at pharmacies, when authorised by a doctor, under arrangements based on the methadone program.
Medicinal cannabis would be available for the treatment of severe muscle spasms or severe pain from multiple sclerosis, severe pain from cancer, HIV or AIDS, severe nausea, severe vomiting or severe wasting from cancer, severe seizures from epileptic conditions or severe chronic pain where two specialist medical practitioners think that medicinal cannabis may work better than other medical options.
“Other patients in exceptional circumstances would be able to have their cases considered separately and may be approved by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services,” the report said.
“Only specialist medical practitioners would be able to authorise treatment with medicinal cannabis. The patient’s local GP would monitor and modify the treatment as necessary.”
The Commission has recommended that medicinal cannabis products should not be smokeable due to the additional health risks but that it should be available in a variety of forms, including tinctures, oils, capsules, sprays and vaporizable liquids.
The Commission also recommend that people not be allowed to grow their own cannabis, nor that cannabis be legalised for wide medicinal use.
The report is online at the Victorian Law Reform Commission website.