The Australian parliament passed new national laws last month paving the way for the use of medicinal cannabis by people with painful and chronic illness.
Amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act permit both legally-grown cannabis for the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products in Australia. The changes, proposed earlier by the Turnbull government, had bi-partisan support.
Recreational cannabis cultivation and use remains illegal with state-based criminal laws still in place.
Health minister Sussan Ley said it was an historic day for the nation and the people who “fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals”.
“This is the missing piece in a patient’s treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy,” she said
Under the new federal scheme, 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 Victorian government announced last year that it will legalise the drug for medical use in 2017. NSW is also currently conducting trials into a cannabis-based drug, Epidolex, with a focus on children with epilepsy, and leading the state-based focus on medical marijuana.
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.
The national scheme is good news for a range of companies currently vying for a slice of the lucrative market. Medicinal cannabis business MGC Pharmaceuticals saw its share price jump on opening.
The business is working with the University of Sydney’s business school to develop a federal government white paper on creating a medical cannabis industry. MGC Pharmaceuticals is currently building a cultivation and extraction plant in Slovenia.