Senate Inquiry calls for sweeping changes to medicinal cannabis access

A Senate Committee Inquiry examining access to medicinal cannabis in Australia has made a series of landmark recommendations to significantly improve the lives of Australian patients.

The Committee heard from patients up and down the country who are unable to access the medicinal cannabis treatments they need due to regulatory barriers and enormous cost.

The Community Affairs References Committee inquiry, instigated by Dr Richard Di Natale, Greens health spokesperson, heard of the many failings of the current arrangements for accessing legal medicinal cannabis products in this country.

“From a lack of doctor education to confusion and overlap between the states and the commonwealth, patients are losing out,” Dr Di Natale said.

“This unanimous report has recommended a range of changes to the current system to give patients access to these treatments and to give Australia’s burgeoning medicinal cannabis industry a fighting chance.

“Crucially, the Committee has recommended that if the current arrangements are not improved sufficiently enough in 12 months, the government should consider establishing an Independent Regulator of medicinal cannabis.

“The Committee has taken a good look at the system, and we know it’s not working. There are a range of changes the government needs to make now, and if they don’t fix this mess, the system needs to be overhauled and an Independent Regulator put in place.

“Cost is a hugely prohibitive factor for many patients. It’s completely unacceptable that people can be out of pocket thousands of dollars for trying to access legal medicinal cannabis products through a regulated system when the black market is far cheaper.

“People should never have to consider breaking the law to access the medical treatments they need, especially when the government claims they support patient access through the appropriate channels.

“That’s why the government must urgently subsidise the cost of medicinal cannabis through a compassionate subsidy scheme for medicinal cannabis until these products are made available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule.

“Doctor education is also of critical importance. The Committee has recommended the inclusion of training for both medical students during their studies and for practising doctors who are seeking more information now.”

Senator Di Natale introduced a Private Senators Bill for an Independent Regulator in 2014, before the government set up their system through the TGA.

The full report and recommendations can be found here.

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