Community pharmacy would be “ideally suited” to dispensing cannabis if the drug were legalised for recreational purposes, says the Sex Party leader

Leader of the Australian Sex Party and Victorian MP Fiona Patten has called upon the Victorian and Federal Governments to tax and regulate personal cannabis use.

This would reduce waste, help boost budgets through taxation and better deploy police resources to fight crime, she says.

“Just this week Canada has moved to legalise personal cannabis use,” she said in a statement. “Like more than eight US States, they realise the economic and police resourcing benefits.

“Australia arrests more than 66,000 people each year for personal cannabis use with court costs alone estimated to be at least $80 million a year. That’s waste on a massive scale.”

Ms Patten told the AJP that significant regulation would be needed, but this could build upon existing frameworks.

“What we’ve learned from other jurisdictions where cannabis for personal use has been legalised is that it has been available through licensed distributors and licensed outlets,” she said.

“In many of those circumstances that has been medicinal cannabis licence holders, but I suspect that Australia, and Victoria in particular, may leapfrog some of that medicinal licensing process.

“So if you consider the licensing that community chemists go through already, and their fit and proper person tests, their ability to regulate restricted products… then they would be ideally suited for a regulated distribution of cannabis for personal use.

“As we saw in Uruguay, that was the obvious answer.”

Uruguay is set to become the first country in the world to legally sell marijuana for personal recreational use through community pharmacies.

Sales are set to begin in early July, according to the head of Uruguay’s National Drugs Council, following the implementation in May of a national registry of marijuana users. Users will need to sign up for the registry to obtain marijuana legally, and the amount they can purchase will be capped at 40 grams per month.

Ms Patten told the AJP that a great deal of the health risk from recreational cannabis is due to its illicit nature and associated stigma. Selling it in pharmacies would allow pharmacists to gain a better understanding of their patients’ drug use and improve harm minimisation opportunities.

“There’s no doubt that the harms of prohibition and the harms of an illicit industry are far greater than any harm that we would see from a regulated industry,” she says.

“Pharmacists are educated, prepared and experienced in explaining to people the harms of certain products, whether that’s an OTC flu tablet or whether it’s a vitamin regime.

“I have great sympathy for the ever-increasing regulatory role that local pharmacies have to play in this area – they are having to canvas their customers around a whole range of products, codeine being one of them, but certainly pseudoephedrine prior to that.

“This seems like a natural fit for chemists that are interested in this area.

“I wouldn’t imagine that this would be something all chemists would want to stock, but the success we’ve seen in other jurisdictions is where the retailer is licensed, educated and has the ability to record sales and follow a strict regulatory regime – and obviously pharmacies are very well suited to that, and very experienced in that.”