Australia has received its first imported shipment of medical marijuana, with licensing and cultivation to follow.
“It’s sensational to be able to get the products that are there to help people, some of whom have no other treatment options,” said Paul Mavor, Director of Health House International, who received imported marijuana from Canada.
Australia legalized medical marijuana over a year ago, but the program was off to a slow start. The licensing process for growers was not up and running, and it would take more time for licensed growers to harvest the first crops. Therefore, the government allowed for the importation of cannabis so that patients wouldn’t have to suffer in the meantime.
But patients still had to wait. Once a patient was approved for medical marijuana treatment, the government imported just enough cannabis for one patient at a time. The newly imported medical marijuana will give patients faster access to their medicine and will allow pharmacies to keep it in stock, thanks to revised regulations that went into effect in February.
“Children suffering from epilepsy and patients dealing with side effects caused by cancer treatment are most likely to benefit from these products,”
said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
He said that doctors will now be able to prescribe cannabis to patients knowing that the process of acquiring cannabis has been simplified. Physicians who prescribe cannabis to their patients will still need approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Professor Marco Falasca of Curtin University is looking forward to how doctors can use medical marijuana to combat severe illnesses, especially now that it is easier to obtain.
“Different diseases can be treated [with medical cannabis] from epilepsy to multiple sclerosis to cancer,” he said. “Our major aim is to find cures and answers to cancer patients.”
The gap between the signing of medical marijuana legislation and the day patients are able to purchase it locally can be years apart. Legalizing medical marijuana is more than just declaring it legal. Governments must essentially establish a new industry, one that is heavily regulated and needs strict guidelines, and find qualified growers willing to participate. In the United States, Georgia has legalized medical marijuana, but it has yet to provide legal medical cannabis to qualifying patients.
Cultivation licenses have been awarded to nine growers, the most recent being AusCann who will open a facility in Western Australia. While these growers launch their operations, the government will continue to import cannabis from Canada, Switzerland and The Netherlands, which will be delivered to Melbourne and Perth. The next shipment is scheduled for May.