Australian government promises easier access to medicinal marijuana

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Marijuana
A marijuana plant is seen at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith's Falls, Ontario, Canada, March 19, 2014. Reuters/Blair Gable

The Federal Government has announced that Australians suffering from serious illness can now have an easier access to medicinal cannabis under sweeping changes. Health Minister Greg Hunt assured that patients no longer need to wait several months to get a hold of marijuana for medical purposes.

The move will boost the supply of medicinal cannabis and loosen importation laws. But it does not mean that everyone will enjoy the privilege. “We want to make supply available but it has to be legal,” Hunt said.

The health minister clarified that a prescription from an authorised doctor is needed. “It has to be safe and we want to make sure this medicinal cannabis is available but on the same basis as any of the serious drugs and medicines that can only be dealt with through prescription and through a very rigorous medical process,” he said. Patients in need of medicinal cannabis for medical purposes are required to submit a letter from their general practitioner (GP) and an importation permit from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

In 2016, the Federal Government passed laws to legalise medicinal cannabis use for Australians with chronic conditions. Currently, medicinal cannabis is sourced from overseas but the changes would see it cultivated locally with imports fast-tracked while local supplies are grown.

Hunt assured that it will not take long until Australians with profound conditions or palliative care needs will be able to access safe, high-quality and appropriately-obtained medication.  “It is time that they have the care that they need, the drugs that are prescribed by medical professionals, and that they are actually available,” he said.

But patients are not the only ones who will be benefited by the aforementioned change. Even farmers, distributors and pickers are expected to reap benefits too. Katoomba-based General Practitioner Teresa Towpik said when medicinal cannabis is locally grown, it would offer massive rewards to these groups of people.  “Why are we importing it, when we could grow own ethically sourced drug here?” she told News.com.au.

Towpik expressed excitement over the benefits of growing medicinal cannabis in Australia, particularly for patients who previously had to endure long wait to access the drug. But the GP stressed that it wasn’t a case of “people smoking bongs” whenever they wish to and that education is key. In relation to this, she will talk about the potential benefits of the drug at Australia’s Hemp Health & Innovation (HHI) Expo & Symposium 2017 in May.

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