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Senators across Australia are readying to heavily endorse a bill that would make medical marijuana legal in the country.

Headed by Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, a committee encompassing Coalition, Labor and crossbench senators will lend its support to the Regulator of Medical Cannabis Bill. If passed, the bill would make Australia’s government responsible for overseeing the production, sale and use of medical cannabis within the country’s borders.

First presented to Parliament last November, the bill was then forwarded to a committee for further review in February of 2015. A series of nationwide public hearings followed that garnered nearly 200 public submissions, and the committee is now prepping to release its report and findings in August. Committee members are expected to strongly endorse the bill despite protest from the Australian Department of Health.

In its correspondence with the committee, the health department expressed concern that this new system was not particularly comprehensive in explaining how certain aspects of the industry would be handled, and that its passage would create unnecessary “complexity and uncertainty.”

The department also cited concerns about how the bill may cause additional issues, as it may be inconsistent with existing acts including the Therapeutic Goods Act and the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Some bill supporters believe the concerns expressed have been raised simply because the health department is opposed to the idea of an independent regulator over which it has no control.

Richard Di NataleSenator Richard Di Natale

While Senator Di Natale acknowledged that opposition to the bill exists, he stated that this independent regulator is necessary because the Therapeutic Goods Administration is specific to the pharmaceutical industry and is not prepared to properly monitor and regulate herbal medicine. He also said that while there are certainly some hurdles ahead, none of them are too large to overcome.

A recent survey indicates that Australians are ready for the legalization of medical marijuana. Conducted by Palliative Care for Australia, the survey indicated that more than two-thirds of Australians support legal cannabis for medicinal purposes, while only 9 percent oppose it.

Among those supporting the legalization of medical marijuana is Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who said:

“I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates.”

The committee’s report is expected to be released Aug. 10, 2015.

photo credit: richard-di-natale.greensmps.org

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