State premier Daniel Andrews paid another visit to Victoria's top secret cannabis compound today, as he announced that the medicinal marijuana crop was ready for its second phase of cultivation—which will involve using cuttings to grow multiple plants.
It's expected that the first patient group to benefit from the trial will have access to medicinal marijuana grown from these cuttings sometime in 2017. The group consists of young children suffering from severe epilepsy.
"We are delivering on our promise to give access to medicinal cannabis as soon as possible because we know it can change lives," Andrews said in a statement today.
The Premier acknowledged that families of sick children are currently illegally using medicinal marijuana out of desperation, and the horticultural trial signalled a new era where legal access to cannabis was available to those in need.
"Right now we have parents are making the heart breaking decision between breaking the law and watching their child suffer—and we are changing that forever," Andrews said.
Shortly after posing with the medicinal marijuana plants, the Premier also announced the creation of a new Independent Medical Advisory Committee. The committee will provide expert advice on the eligibility of patients for certain types of medicinal cannabis products, and will dictate who will benefit from the next batch of plants.
The committee will include doctors and medical researchers, as well as consumer experts. It will be lead by Dr James Argus, formerly head of the University of Melbourne's medical school.
Victoria's Minister for Health, Jill Jennessy, emphasised that the committee would be able to provide the best possible advice as to who should benefit from medicinal marijuana in Victoria.
"The new Medical Advisory Committee will use the very best medical evidence available so doctors and families can have confidence in our medicinal cannabis access scheme," she said. "Professor Angus' highly-respected skills, knowledge and expertise will help guide the roll-out of medicinal cannabis products for Victorian patients in exceptional circumstances."
Following through on a Labor election promise, Andrews announced that Victoria would become the first Australian state to provide a legal framework for medicinal marijuana use in October last year.
The medicinal marijuana movement is gaining traction across Australia in recent months, especially after the Federal parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 in February, which paves the way for establishing "licensing and permit schemes for the cultivation and production [in Australia] of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal and scientific purposes."
Effectively, cultivating medicinal marijuana is now legal across Australia, so long as you have a license. In May, the NSW Government applied for a license under the scheme, to grow medicinal marijuana for use in clinical trials.
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