LEICHHARDT MP and medicinal cannabis advocate Warren Entsch has welcomed the Government’s plan to allow the growing of cannabis within Australia for medical and scientific use.
However he has warned that unless roadblocks with the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approvals process can be overcome, there is little chance of patients being able to access medicinal cannabis in a timely and affordable manner.
Health Minister Sussan Ley MP announced on Saturday that the Commonwealth intends to develop amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 that will establish an authority, within the Department of Health, to regulate the cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific use required under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.
Cannabis cultivated in Australia may then be used to carry out clinical trials and develop therapeutic products to be used in accordance with the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.
“I think this is fantastic news – it’s great to see this Government recognise that there is a real groundswell of public support for medicinal cannabis. It’s important to recognise though that this is a first step, because unless the TGA’s processes are streamlined we’re not going to get these products into patients’ hands any sooner,” Mr Entsch said today.
“I’ve spoken with individuals who have applied to bring medicinal cannabis products into Australia under the Special Access Scheme and it’s a very time-consuming and convoluted process.
“Even when products have passed rigorous testing overseas, it’s difficult to get the TGA to recognise that research and applicants are waiting a long, long time for an outcome.
“People in these situations don’t have years – or even months – to wait.”
The Department of Health is still drafting the amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 but Mr Entsch said he will be requesting a copy of the draft bill as soon as it is available.
“I’ll be keen to talk to Minister Ley to see if it can be modified, to see whether the authority within the Department of Health can be independent of the TGA,” he said.
“Alternatively, I’m still supportive of the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 which is being driven by the Cross-Party Group on Drug Policy and Law Reform, through Greens Senator Richard Di Natale.
“The Regulator that is being proposed through our group would be a stand-alone entity and would manage the whole process from licensing of growers, to cultivation, processing and distribution through a GP on prescription.”
Mr Entsch said he had met with Prime Minister Turnbull yesterday and discussed medicinal cannabis, and said the PM was very supportive of seeing action on the issue.
“I’ve also spoken to Senator Di Natale and let him know that I’m keen to continue working at all levels on this.
“It’s also great to see state governments coming on board, but we have to get our national framework right and ensure that these therapeutic products can be accessed by a wide range of people.”