Australia: Government Passes Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
Australia's Parliament on Wednesday passed a medical cannabis bill which will allow the legal cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Health Minister Sussan Ley announced on Wednesday afternoon that amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967, which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesdday, had also successfully passed the Senate, reports Josh Butler at The Huffington Post Australia.
The new law will allow access to medicinal cannabis products for patients suffering from serious illnesses, by allowing the cultivation of the plant for medical and scientific purposes.
"This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medical cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals," Ley said.
"This is the missing piece in a patient's treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced cannabis products from farm to pharmacy," Ley said. "Under this scheme, a patient with a valid prescription can possess and use a medicinal cannabis product manufactured from cannabis plants legally cultivated in Australia."
Greens leader, Senator Richard Di Natale, spoke in support of the bill in the Senate on Wednesday, but denied it was really the "missing piece" to give full medical access to cannabis products. He said the bill didn't change the classification of marijuana and that it remained an illegal drug, despite the exception made to grow it for medicinal and scientific purposes.
"It is one piece of the puzzle but there's a lot more that needs to be done," Di Natale said. "[The bill] doesn't do anything about the distribution, supply, prescription of the drug... there's no legislation around how doctors will prescribe it."
"Ironically, medicinal cannabis is still an illegal drug," Di Natale said.
In her statement, Ley said the government was "well-advanced" in lowering cannabis on the Poisons Schedule.
“This will simplify arrangements around the legal possession of medicinal cannabis products, placing them in the same category as restricted medicines such as morphine, rather than an illicit drug," Ley said. "This will in turn reduce any barriers to access, no matter what state a patient lives in.”
Di Natale said the Greens would wait to see how the bill works on the ground, but they have a more detailed medical cannabis bill ready to introduce if they felt the government's bill didn't go far enough.
"We reserve the right to reintroduce our legislation if progress is too slow ... if we don't see the drug make its way to pharmacies and then through to doctors, we will look at reintroducing legislation which does that," Di Natale said.
The bill doesn't allow any recreational marijuana use.
Graphic: The Stoner's Cookbook