A Medicinal Cannabis Scheme will be established in the ACT to give people safe and legal access to high quality medicinal cannabis products, announced Assistant Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris today.
This follows the recent interim decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to reschedule cannabis from schedule 9 (prohibited substance) to schedule 8 (controlled drug) of the Poisons Standard. This will make medicinal cannabis a controlled drug in the ACT when it comes into effect.
Minister Fitzharris said the ACT Government is working to develop a considered and consistent framework to support a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme as soon as practicable.
“Establishing a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in the ACT is a priority for the ACT Government, but we need to do it in a way that is evidence-based and that supports people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“Now the Commonwealth has acted, we can establish a scheme in the ACT that will treat medicinal cannabis products in the same manner as we treat other medicines.
“The ACT’s scheme will work to establish the ACT as a leader in the research and development of cannabis products here in Australia and develop a framework for the prescription, use and distribution of medicinal cannabis to those who need them on medical grounds.
“At the moment, there are no clinical guidelines on what types of conditions medicinal cannabis can and should be prescribed for. The ACT Government will develop evidence-based guidelines to inform and support medical practitioners in how to best prescribe medicinal cannabis products. We will also develop education materials for clinicians and the general public to support these guidelines.”
Minister Fitzharris said although the Federal Government has enabled licensing of the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products through a national scheme, it was unlikely the ACT would be able to support the production of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“While we are a small jurisdiction and our ability to cultivate and manufacture is limited by our geography we do have other strengths though, mainly in the research and development sector.
“We already have some of the best medical researchers in the country based at our local institutions and advancing research on the efficacy of medicinal cannabis to treat a range of illnesses and conditions presents another opportunity to support cutting edge research in Canberra and showcase our city as the research capital of Australia.
“The University of Canberra has already started a $1 million collaboration with Cann Pharmaceutical to commence a medical-grade cannabis therapy trial for the treatment of melanoma.”
Minister Fitzharris said in implementing a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, a range of issues would need to be taken into account, including the potential impacts it could have on law enforcement and criminal activity.
“The Government will appoint two expert advisory committees from across the spectrum of government agencies, non-government agencies, medical specialists and law enforcement to address issues raised by the establishment of a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.
“The Medicinal Cannabis Medical Advisory Panel will provide high level advice to the Chief Health Officer on development of clinical guidelines and regulations. And the Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Group will provide advice to government on the broader economic, legal and social issues related to the introduction of a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.
“Possession, trafficking and supply of cannabis remains illegal under both the Federal and ACT Criminal Codes,” said Minister Fitzharris.
The ACT Government expects the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme to be in place in 2017, joining Victoria, Queensland and NSW in implementing such a scheme. There is no immediate requirement to amend ACT legislation to facilitate the implementation of a Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in the ACT.