In an Australian first, the Andrews Labor Government will legalise access to locally manufactured medicinal cannabis products for use in exceptional circumstances from 2017.
Prior to the election, Labor committed to this change because no family should have to choose between breaking the law and watching their loved ones suffer.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission was asked to advise how to amend the law in order to allow people in exceptional circumstances to safely access medicinal cannabis products.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Report on Medicinal Cannabis, tabled in Parliament today, includes 42 recommendations and addresses key issues including:
- Cultivation, manufacture and supply of high quality medicinal cannabis products within Victoria
- Patient eligibility
- Appropriate clinical oversight involving specialists, general practitioners, nurses and pharmacists
- The need for ongoing research and clinical trials
The Government fully accepts 40 of the Commission’s recommendations, and accepts two recommendations in principle.
A key step to enabling access to medicinal cannabis will be to establish cultivation and manufacturing industries in Victoria to support an ongoing and reliable supply of medicinal cannabis for patients.
The Government will begin a cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility which is overseen by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources will also be given new regulatory functions to license growers to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of medicinal cannabis.
The Commission also recommends that eligibility for the scheme be based on the following conditions and corresponding symptoms:
- Severe muscle spasms or severe pain resulting from multiple sclerosis
- Severe pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting arising from cancer, HIV/AIDS (of the treatment thereof)
- Severe seizures resulting from epileptic conditions where other treatment options have failed or have intolerable side effects
- Severe chronic pain with the approval of two specialists
As a priority, the Government will provide access to medicinal cannabis for children with severe epilepsy in early 2017.
The Government accepts the Commission’s recommendation to establish an independent medical advisory committee on medicinal cannabis which will provide advice about expanding eligibility to further patient groups.
The Government will establish an Office of Medicinal Cannabis within the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the manufacturing, dispensing and clinical aspects of the framework.
The Office of Medicinal Cannabis will also help encourage new research and develop clinical guidance, in consultation with the medical profession.
Earlier this year, the Victorian Government partnered with the NSW Government to enable the participation of Victorians in its clinical trials set to commence in 2016. To help build the evidence base, the Government is also working to establish a Victorian-based clinical trial.
The Commission’s Report also highlights the importance of cooperation with the Commonwealth, and the Government will be working with its Federal counterparts to ensure Victorians can access medicinal cannabis safely and legally.
The Government thanks the Victorian Law Reform Commission for its extensive work, which will make a significant difference to the lives of thousands of Victorians.
The Government will introduce legislation reflecting the Commission’s recommendations by the end of the year.
Quotes attributable to Premier Daniel Andrews
“I’ve seen first-hand how medicinal cannabis can change people’s lives. This landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.”
“During the election we committed to legalising medicinal cannabis for use in exceptional circumstances, and we’re delivering on our promise.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy
“Victoria is leading the way on legalising medicinal cannabis because we know the difference it can make to a patient’s quality of life, and because we know the evidence is growing in support of it as a treatment option in exceptional circumstances.”
“Children with severe epilepsy will be the first to access medicinal cannabis in early 2017 because their condition can be life threatening and medicinal cannabis may be their last treatment option.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford
“This cultivation trial will ensure supply for patients in the first instance, and provide us with important and scientific information that will support and facilitate the development of cultivation of medicinal cannabis in Victoria.”
“The trial will allow for safe and secure medicinal cannabis products to be introduced and made available for those people in exceptional circumstances in Victoria. Planning for the trial is already underway.”