CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) — Australia is expected to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medical or scientific purposes with a bill introduced to parliament on Wednesday (February 10), the first step towards doctors eventually prescribing it to patients with chronic pain.
The bill will see Australia create a national licensing and permit scheme to supply medical cannabis to patients with painful and chronic conditions on clinical trials.
Several Australian states have committed to starting trials for the cultivation of cannabis for medical and research purposes but current laws forbid the growing of the plant.
As a result Australian manufacturers, researchers and patients on clinical trials have been forced to access international supplies of legal medicinal marijuana. But costs, limited supply and export barriers make this challenging.
“This is a process and a product that we need to bring to the Australian people and unless the Commonwealth provided, as I said, this missing piece, this actually couldn’t happen. States and Territories are waiting and ready and in some cases underway with clinical trials. Universities, research bodies and those who are interested in the manufacture and supply are all working hard as we speak and, deputy speaker, we can lead the world in this important area of health science,” said Australia’s Health Minister Sussan Ley.
Although the legislation would aid supply to researchers and patients on clinical trials, access to cannabis will not be allowed for other patients and the general public.
Australia is set to decide by the end of March as to whether to lower the criteria on how it allows the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Should Australia decide to treat cannabis similar to opium, patients dealing with chronic pain could be prescribed the drug.