Marijuana’s legality approved by the Australian government
Feb 26, 2016 07:08 PM EST
The Australian government has passed new national laws to permit the use of medicinal marijuana (cannabis) by people with painful and chronic illnesses.
The amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act will allow cannabis to be legally grown for medicinal purposes without repercussion from the law.
As read in the bill, "These amendments will ensure that when cultivation and production of cannabis and manufacture of cannabis products for medicinal purposes begin, Australia will remain compliant with its international treaty obligations as defined in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961."
The bill will allow the government to issue licenses allowing the manufacture of medical cannabis products and research into medical uses of the drug. Those who receive such licenses will have to be proven to be a "fit and proper person," and there will be penalties for misuse.
A "state or territory government agency" will be authorized to undertake cultivation and production of cannabis and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products. An amendment will also be made to the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.
The new law will "provide a legislative framework that will enable cannabis cultivation in Australia and provide Australian patients in need with access to medicinal cannabis for therapeutic purposes," the bill reads.
In a statement, Health Minister Susan Ley called the bill's passing "an historic day."
The drug remains a "prohibited substance" under the poisons schedule. But the minister said the Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration were "well-advanced" in considering downgrading it to a "controlled substance" class, putting it in the same category as morphine.
Ley added that the Department of Health is also considering down-scheduling medical cannabis in the Poisons Schedule. "This will simplify arrangements around the legal possession of medicinal cannabis products, placing them in the same category as restricted medicines such as morphine, rather than an illicit drug," she said.
"Each state and territory would need to give effect to any decision to down-schedule in their own jurisdiction," a spokesperson for Minister Ley clarified. "For some states this happens automatically; others need to make changes to their regulations."
It was previously illegal to grow and import most medicinal cannabis products, leading some patients to buy them from the black market and run the risk of being prosecuted for drug use and possession.
Michael Katz, a lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School who is researching the medical cannabis industry, told Mashable Australia the legislation change is "a great first step."
In Australia, drug law enforcement is dictated state by state. In Katz's view, the bill provides a federal framework to create a legal supply chain when the states are ready to legalize the consumption of medical cannabis and the associated manufacturing industry.
"There's still significant work needed on the legal side, particularly on the state level to amend some of their acts," he said. "We've already seen an appetite on the state level in Victoria, Queensland and now New South Wales."
The national scheme is good news for a range of companies currently vying for a slice of the lucrative market. Medicinal cannabis business MGC Pharmaceuticals, listed on the ASX via a reverse takeover of Perth-based resources business yesterday, saw its share price jump on opening, and rise another 27% today to $0.33.
The business is working with the University of Sydney's business school to develop a federal government white paper on creating a medical cannabis industry. MGC Pharmaceuticals is currently building a cultivation and extraction plant in Slovenia.