Government tactics under fire

cannabis medicinal

Amendments to allow easier importing of medicinal cannabis go before Parliament as government tactics described as an “utter disgrace”

The Federal Government’s decision to defy the Senate and continue to push for restrictions on the importation of cannabis-based medicines for terminally ill patients has come under renewed parliamentary pressure.

Debate raged in the Senate last week as an amendment introduced by Greens leader Senator Richard DiNatale went before the house.

The Medicinal Cannabis Legislation Amendment (Securing Patient Access) Bill 2017 would amend the Customs Act 1901 to provide that “prohibited goods intended to be used as medicinal cannabis products are, for the purpose of satisfying import conditions, taken to be drugs required for medical purposes; and provide that goods permitted to be supplied for the purposes stated in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 for the Special Access Scheme Category-B, relating to clinical trials and authorised prescribers, will also be permitted to be supplied for the Special Access Scheme Category-A, relating to seriously ill patients with a condition from which death is reasonably likely to occur within a matter of months”.

It would also amend the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 to allow the secretary to grant a licence to manufacture medicinal cannabis if satisfied it is to be supplied to a seriously ill person in accordance with certain regulatory and notification requirements.

In August, ABC Lateline revealed an email sent by the Office of Drug Control in the Department of Health, which notes the Senate vote “allows access to medicinal cannabis products under the Special Access Scheme Category A”.

But the email goes on to warn importers: “it is a breach of your permit and licence conditions if you supply any imported medicinal cannabis product to a patient under SAS-A”.

In June a “rainbow coalition of senators” banded together to overturn restrictions on the importation of cannabis-based medicines for terminally ill patients.

In the latest debate, on Thursday 19 October, Senator Helen Polley (ALP, Tas) said “there ain’t many votes in this place that unite Labor, the Greens, One Nation, Senator Lambie, Senator Hinch, Senator Gichuhi and Senator Leyonhjelm, but this one did exactly that.”

The same alliance again saw the passage of the amendment, this time with the support of the Nick Xenophon Team, and the legislation was read before the House of Representatives for the first time on 19 October.  

“Over time, medicinal cannabis should be treated in the same way as other medicines. Products will be assessed for safety by the TGA and, where they pass that test, they will be prescribed by doctors, dispensed by pharmacists and possible one day subsidised by the PBS,” Senator Polley said.

Independent Senator Derryn Hinch described the government’s tactics as “an absolute disgrace”.

“They are thwarting the will and the rights of sick people in Australia.”

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