Medicinal cannabis will soon be legal in Queensland, after state parliament unanimously passed the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 on Wednesday night. The new law will come into effect from March 2017.
Medicinal cannabis is already legal in both Victoria and New South Wales, but Queensland's new legislation has a very different framework—establishing two different pathways for medicinal cannabis treatment. The first gives specialist doctors, such as oncologists, the ability to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients with certain conditions without state approval. The second concerns non-specialist doctors, like local GPs, who are able to apply for permission from a government body to prescribe cannabis for patients suffering from certain conditions.
In contrast, the Victorian Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 gives patients access to medicinal cannabis products, but use is restricted to children suffering from severe epilepsy. In New South Wales, the state's Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment Regulations require every patient to be considered by an expert panel before getting access to medicinal cannabis treatment.
Introducing the bill, Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said that he was proud to be progressing a "groundbreaking reform."
"This bill will change the paradigm for seriously ill patients who feel compelled to seek out illicit cannabis treatment options by enshrining in an act a legal and safe pathway through which to access medicinal cannabis treatment," he told Parliament.
Minister Dick labelled the new two-tiered medicinal cannabis laws "the most flexible in the country," although the process for qualifying for treatment from a local GP will still be heavily regulated. A patient's application for medicinal cannabis will be assessed not only by the symptoms of their condition, but also by their history of drug dependence.
So where will the cannabis come from? Cultivating medicinal marijuana was made legal across Australia earlier this year, so long as you have a license. So far, only New South Wales and Victoria have taken advantage of the new law—it remains to be seen whether Queensland will follow them.
Tuesday was a big day for medicinal cannabis debate in Australia, with Tasmanian Parliament voting down a bill introduced by the Greens to quarantine patients from prosecution while they wait for the state's new medicinal cannabis laws to come into effect in April 2017.
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