Victoria: The Garden State to grow medical marijuana.

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By John Kerrens

 

The Victorian Government plans to give the legalisation of medical cannabis the green light. It is an announcement that has been welcomed by the Australian Drug Foundation.

Victoria will be the first state to legalise marijuana for the treatment of serious medical conditions, including cancer (and the violent side-effects of chemotherapy), HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain.

The reforms, triggered by a recent report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission will allow licensed manufacturers and cultivators to produce a range of cannabis-based products including oils, capsules, tinctures etc. It will be sold at specific pharmacies when authorised by a specialist doctor.

These products will emphatically not come in ‘smokeable’ form but will be dispensed in a manner similar to the methadone program.

Geoff Munro, the ADF’s National Policy Manager said children suffering from severe epilepsy would not be the first to be given medical cannabis – prescribed by a doctor.  Mr Munro did not envisage a Colorado-style free market in cannabis but rather the emphasis will be on professional assessment and prescription by medical specialists.

“The Government will establish an independent medical advisory committee on medicinal cannabis which will provide advice about expanding eligibility to further patient groups,” Mr Munro said.

“We support access for Australians suffering a terminal disease, intense pain or debilitating conditions but again, only if the doctor prescribes it. As a compassionate society, there is no reason to prevent doctors prescribing medicinal cannabis to those people for whom other medication has not provided relief.”

Mr Munro also expressed general concern about other health-related issues to do with some of the side-effects of cannabis: “While we support using medicinal cannabis to reduce pain and suffering in a small population, we cannot ignore the strong evidence which shows it can damage mental health and cause harm. This move is about helping people who lack other alternatives and who suffer badly – it is not about giving people a legal high.”

The Australian Drug Foundation supports medical cannabis usage only in the following conditions:

  • The patient is diagnosed by a medical specialist or physician, who is suffering from an ailment that the medical evidence suggests is likely to be relieved by medical cannabis.
  • The patient remains under the supervision of a medical specialist.
  • The patient’s condition has proved resistant to conventional therapies and interventions.
  • The patient agrees to the self-use only of the medical cannabis and not to transfer it to any other person.

The establishment of a ‘medical cannabis review board’ is to oversee the therapeutic use of cannabis.

That continuing research is conducted into the efficacy and safety of cannabis products for therapeutic purposes.

An office of Medical Cannabis will also be established inside the Department of Health and Human Services.

As reported in The Age, the Premier Daniel Andrews said it was one of his proudest days in politics.

“I’ve seen first hand how medicinal cannabis can change people’s lives,” he said. “This landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.”

 

 

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