New laws have been passed today by Australian parliament which pave the way for people with painful and chronic illness to use medical marijuana or cannabis.
Amendments have been made to the Narcotic Drugs Act which permit growing of cannabis for the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products in Australia. The changes were proposed earlier this month by the Turnbull government.
Recreational cannabis cultivation and use remains illegal with state-based criminal laws still in place.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the changes now provide patients and doctors with legal options to access safe medicinal cannabis for treatments.
“Until now, it has been difficult for patients to access medicinal cannabis products from overseas sources,” Ley said in a statement released on Sunday.
In the statement, Ley stressed that the changes do not decriminalise recreational cannabis use.
Patients with a valid prescription can possess and use medicinal cannabis products manufactured from cannabis legally cultivated in Australia, provided the supply has been authorised under the Therapeutic Goods Act and relevant state and territory legislation. The changes put medical cannabis in the same category as restricted medicinal drugs such as morphine.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is due to hand down its interim decision on scheduling cannabis for medicinal purposes next month. The minister said an independent Advisory Committee will be set up to oversee the next stage of the rollout of a national regulator for medicinal cannabis.
“A national regulator will allow the government to closely track the development of cannabis products for medicinal use from cultivation to supply and curtail any attempts by criminals to get involved,” Ms Ley said.