Australian State Passes Medicinal Cannabis Laws
Queensland patients with life-threatening conditions will soon be able to legally access medicinal cannabis after new laws passed in the state's hung parliament.
The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill provides a regulatory framework so that medicinal cannabis products can, with government and Therapeutic Goods Administration approval, be prescribed and dispensed to patients, but also prevents their unauthorised use.
Health Minister Cameron Dick described the reform as "ground breaking".
"This bill will change the paradigm for seriously ill patients who often feel compelled to seek out illicit cannabis treatment options," he told parliament on Wednesday night.
Mr Dick also sought to dispel myths and misconceptions about the change, saying it was not true that the legislation would only allow for the use of synthetic cannabis products.
"The bill enables access to both synthetic and botanically derived cannabis products," he said.
Under the laws, patients can access medicinal cannabis in two ways: with a prescription from specialist doctors such as oncologists or neurologists without the need for additional Queensland Health approval, or with help from medical practitioners who will apply to the department.
Patients and their families will not be able to grow their own cannabis under the laws, with Mr Dick citing "significant safety risks" associated with the lack of therapeutic goods oversight.
The Liberal National Party's health spokesman, John-Paul Langbroek, recalled high-profile cases where individuals had unlawfully sourced medicinal cannabis and increased public discussion.
Mr Langbroek said while it was difficult to estimate demand, there were significant numbers of patients with HIV AIDS experiencing severe pain, multiple sclerosis patients with severe muscle spasticity, almost one million cancer treatment sessions per year and a small number of life-threatening childhood epilepsy patients, all of whom could benefit.
But he also raised reservations that the legislation could create a "duplicative and complex process" between the new Queensland laws and the Therapeutic Goods Act.
Medicinal cannabis is already legal in Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the US.
Regulations passed last year mean Queensland patients can already access medicinal cannabis - and one person has so far been granted approval - however the extra provisions will come into effect in March.
Michael Cope, the President of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, welcomed the laws but feared sick Queenslanders would be forced into the illicit market unless the state replicated the Victorian model.
"The legislation will be of no benefit to the thousands of suffering Queenslanders who need medicinal cannabis unless steps are taken to secure a supply," Mr Cope said.
He criticised the government for increasing the penalties for illegal supply while failing to create "a local industry which may bring economic benefits to north Queensland".