The ACT has given the go-ahead to give people safe, legal access to high quality medicinal cannabis. This follows a recent interim decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to downgrade cannabis from a prohibited substance to a controlled drug. The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme is expected to be in place by 2017.
At the moment there are no clinical guidelines on what types of conditions medicinal cannabis can and should be prescribed for, according to ACT Assistant Health Minister, Meegan Fitzharris.
“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.”
However despite the move, the ACT will not agree to license the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis within its borders, even though federal legislation allows it.
The ACT Government is also setting up two advisory committees to deal with issues thrown up by the scheme. The Medicinal Cannabis Medical Advisory Panel will advise on developing clinical guidelines and regulations while the medicinal Cannabis Advisory Group will advise government on the broader economic, legal and social issues relating to the scheme, including criminal activity and law enforcement.
ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has urged the government not to be too restrictive about who could access the scheme. “It should include people with terminal illnesses as well as children with severe epilepsy, with the backing of a doctor.” He added that it would be best if it was not just limited to pharmaceutical cannabis products because there were not many of them and these would take many years to develop further.
The University of Canberra is running a $1 million medicinal cannabis trial for treating melanoma in partnership with Cann Pharmaceutical.
A medicinal cannabis scheme has already been introduced in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
In the US, the Federal Government’s current stance on cannabis means that state-qualified patients can use cannabis medicine without fear of arrest or prosecution and depending on the state, growing cannabis at home is allowed. However, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug, but the Obama Administration has allowed state-level medical marijuana programs to continue generally unhindered.