Australia will be legalising the medical use of marijuana (cannabis) across the entire country, starting this November.
- Medicinal marijuana will be formally legalised from November 2016
- Medicinal use will be strictly controlled
- Recreational use will remain illegal
- Industry is still tied up in red tape
- The drug could be hard to obtain
The Therapeutics Goods Administration reached a formal decision last week to legalise medicinal marijuana, though the drug will remain strictly controlled.
The final decision comes after Federal Parliament this year lent bipartisan support to changes to the Narcotic Drugs Act to allow cannabis to be legally grown and produced in Australia for medicinal purposes as part of a national scheme.
Clinical trials have shown moderate quality evidence the substance can help treat chronic pain and spasticity and potentially reduce chemotherapy-related nausea.
However, the news doesn’t mean that just anyone will be able to obtain the leafy green bud… at least not legally.
It could still be some time before a fully functioning system can be put in place to ensure patients could access cannabis and cannabis-related drugs to ease their suffering.
According to United in Compassion medicinal cannabis campaigner and co-founder, Lucy Haslam, there is reason to be concerned about the pricing of medicinal cannabis and the lack of education that currently exists on the matter.
“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,” said Haslam.
“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.”
For workplaces, the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia will mean that employers and WHS officers need to review their workplace drug policies to include clauses specifying the use of medicinal cannabis in the workplace.
Because marijuana is traceable with a saliva drug testing kit and even urine drug testing kit after use for longer periods than other types of drugs, it will be tricky to differentiate if an employee is still influenced by the drug at the workplace versus previous use.
Recreational use of marijuana will remain illegal under the new law change, but the decision to legalise medicinal use across the entire country could be an essential step towards full legalisation.
We will have to wait until November to see how accessible and efficient Australia’s cannabis industry will be for patients in need, but the fact that medicinal marijuana will soon be legalised countrywide is breaking news all on its own.