The Therapeutic Good Administration, Australia’s regulatory agency for medical drugs and devices, made the formal decision that it would be legalizing medical marijuana across the country later this year.
Following a decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, medical marijuana will become formally legal in Australia this fall. In a decision published at the end of August, the delegate announced that medicinal cannabis will be considered legal beginning November 1, but there will likely be a delay for patients as the country sets up a national regulatory system.
Australia had previously approved cannabis clinical trials, which according to The Sydney Morning Herald “have shown moderate quality evidence the substance can help treat chronic pain and spasticity and potentially reduce chemotherapy-related nausea.”
“The aim of the decision is to provide genuine patients access to a safe, legal and sustainable supply of locally produced products for the management of painful and chronic conditions,” the TGA wrote on its site.
The final TGA decision will move medical marijuana from a Schedule 9 entry to a Schedule 8 entry. Under the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967, there are 10 classifications of substances, with 10 considered the most dangerous. Medical marijuana will join codeine, morphine and dilaudid as a Schedule 8 entry, which include substances and products that are specifically for medicinal purposes and require a prescription from a medical doctor. Rescheduling medical marijuana was initially proposed at a March 2016 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS).
The scheduling changes will take effect once the new Poisons Standard is published in November. Marijuana for non-medicinal purposes will remain illegal throughout Australia.
While it may be some time before Australia has a fully functioning medical marijuana system up and running, the TGA decision is an “essential step in the process,” according to United in Compassion co-founder and medical marijuana campaigner Lucy Haslam. Cautiously optimistic, Haslam does have concerns.
“My fear is that the industry will become so expensive that patients won’t be able to access a legal supply at an affordable price,” she said. “There’s also a lot of work to do on educating people and doctors, some of who remain a bit uncomfortable about prescribing medical cannabis to patients.”
Federal Parliament had already amended its Narcotic Drugs Act, legalizing cannabis use and cultivation for medical purposes in February. The Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016 provided a legislative framework that permitted cannabis cultivation and production for medicinal and related research purposes.
While medical marijuana had been illegal throughout most of Australia, the state of Victoria did pass the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill in April, which gave children suffering from severe epilepsy legal access to medical marijuana. Additionally, Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman and Minister of Health Michael Ferguson announced earlier this year that the state would soon be allowing specialist doctors to legally recommend medicinal cannabis to patients with serious or chronic illnesses, a change that is set to take effect some time in 2017.
Until the federal government sets up its national oversight system, patients seeking medicinal marijuana will remain in limbo. However, while patients may need to wait beyond November to get a hold of legal medical cannabis, the landmark decision from the TGA is a significant step toward full legalization.
Keep up with the legislative developments concerning cannabis legalization by following our news feed. Visit our Medical Marijuana Laws page to learn what U.S. states and international countries have established cannabis legislation.