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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 4128..

Orders of the day-postponement

Ordered that Notices Nos 3, 4 and 5, private members' business, be postponed until a later hour.

Drugs of Dependence (Cannabis for Medical Conditions) Amendment Bill 2004

Debate resumed from 30 June 2004, on motion by Ms Tucker:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.53): Mr Speaker, the Drugs of Dependence (Cannabis for Medical Conditions) Amendment Bill 2004 recommends that the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 be amended to allow for individuals with certain medical conditions to access cannabis for medicinal use. Under this amendment, the person may apply in writing to the Chief Health Officer for approval to use and/or cultivate, possess and supply cannabis.

The person may apply under three categories, depending on the medical condition. Medical conditions included under categories 1 and 2 include a person with a terminal illness, nausea associated with cancer, cachexia (wasting) associated with AIDS, anorexia, weight loss and severe pain associated with HIV infection, muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis, pain associated with spinal cord injury and epileptic seizures. Category 3 is for the relief of symptoms of any other medical condition or its treatment. The person applying must state that a doctor has explained the risks to them and that they consent to the doctor's recommended cannabis treatment.

The application must include a medical declaration about the medical condition and the symptom or symptoms that may be relieved, the recommended daily dosage of cannabis, duration of use (no longer than one year) and form of cannabis. It must state that for this particular person the benefits of using cannabis would outweigh any risks. The medical declaration must be made by one doctor for category one or two, or one or two medical specialists for categories two and three and contain the doctor or doctors' contact details. For applications under categories two and three, all conventional treatments must have been tried or considered and found not suitable or effective.

Cannabis is of course a prohibited drug and the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis are offences in the ACT. There are two levels of offences, the less serious of which is a simple cannabis offence. Changes to the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 in late June have changed a simple cannabis offence to two plants cultivated naturally; previously it was five plants, with any growing method allowed. The bill allows an exemption for persons with a licence to grow cannabis for medical use.

If the bill were passed in its present form, inspections of private premises would be necessary. This would apply to persons with approvals to possess and use cannabis and those with a licence to cultivate cannabis for medical conditions. There is no provision for inspection of private premises under the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989. The act would need to be amended to include this.

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