This story is over 5 years old.


Australia Moves One Step Closer to Legalizing Medical Marijuana

The country's health minister said Saturday that under the government's plan, laws banning the cultivation of marijuana will be altered to pave the way for medical use.
Imagen vía Flickr

Australia has announced plans to legalize the growing of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes.

Changes to existing legislation that bans the growing of marijuana will be introduced to parliament with a focus on providing alternate treatment for those with debilitating illnesses, health minister Sussan Ley said in a statement on Saturday. Earlier this month, the state of Victoria announced that it plans to implement a legal framework around legal medicinal cannabis. In Victoria, statewide sales are set to commence by 2017, with emphasis on access to children suffering severe epilepsy, though specific state legislation and federal government permission are still pending.


Related: Canada's Medical Weed Industry Braces for Legalization if Liberals Win Election

"This government is incredibly sympathetic to the suffering of those Australians with debilitating illnesses, and we want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available," Ley said.

The Commonwealth Government first banned the importation, production, and sale of cannabis in 1926. The state of South Australia decriminalized low-level marijuana offenses in 1987, followed by the Australian Capital Territory around Canberra in 1993. Victoria will be the first state to allow the manufacture and sale of products containing THC in a similar process to the distribution of methadone.

Watch 'Amsterdam's War on Weed.'

According to Saturday's statement the Narcotics Drugs Act would be amended to allow marijuana to be grown locally without contradicting the country's international obligations to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Australia, though police in most states do not charge people found with small amounts for personal use.

"Allowing the cultivation of legal medicinal cannabis crops in Australia under strict controls strikes the right balance between patient access, community protection, and our international obligations," Ley said.

Related: Australia Just Ordered 1,100 High-Powered Armored Vehicles For its Military

According to her, the announcement was in no way an invitation to an open debate about recreational legalization or making medical cannabis products available over the counter.

"At the end of the day, cannabis is classified as an illegal drug in Australia for recreational use," Ley said, "and we have no plans to change that."

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @ViceNews

Photo via Flickr