After months of deliberation and scrutiny, the Australian parliament announced that medical marijuana is now legal in the country. Recreational marijuana still remains illegal in Australia.
“This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals,” Minister for Health Sussan Ley said in a statement.
Greener Laws and Amendments
Amendments to the original Narcotics Drug Act that many felt was severely lacking and outdated in supporting new forms of medical treatment, such as cannabis, could not have come at a better time. The new measure, also known as the Narcotics Drugs Amendment Bill 2016, allows cannabis to be legally grown for medical and research purposes. To bolster monitoring efforts, licensing and permit programs for cannabis cultivation and products will also be established.
“There will be two separate types of medical cannabis licenses available under the new bill. The first license type authorizes the cultivation of cannabis to be manufactured into medicinal cannabis products. The second license type authorizes the research of medical cannabis and its potential uses,” explained Nanette Porter from Medical Jane.
As predicted by analysts, the movement of the bill during the session was smooth and unsurprising. Some senators spoke openly about the potential of the drug, as well as its medicinal properties. At the peak of the meeting, Tasmania Labor senator Anne Urquhart elaborated on her encounter with a mother who was seeking treatment for her daughter with Dravet syndrome. The administration of cannabis oil helped manage the number of life-threatening seizures the young girl was prone to on a daily basis.
From Farm to Pharmacy
The passing of the bill provides unrestricted access to locally grown cannabis for registered patients. Before the measure, marijuana supplies came from licensed, international suppliers. The complex arrangement often left many patients with limited access to supplies. As a result, treatments were inconsistent, and some individuals who relied on the drug were forced to purchase marijuana on the streets. With the new bill, the Australian government hopes to curb such events, through the appointment of a national regulator, and bring transparency to the cannabis treatment process.
In addition to reducing bottlenecks associated with cannabis access, Minister Ley verified that the government (through the Therapeutic Goods Association) will be reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule 9 “illegal drug” to a Schedule 8 “controlled drug” along with fentanyl, methadone, and oxycodone. This would help ease the passing of future regulations surrounding legal cannabis use and distribution in the country. Scientists will also see less resistance in acquiring weed for clinical trials and research.