Page 4269 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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I have talked to people who are actually suffering from illnesses or, like Lucy Haslam, whose loved ones have passed away in the time that governments have been procrastinating on this issue. It is unfathomable to them that governments continue to dither while their loved ones suffer. There are several concrete actions we can take. I have talked about these before, and I will reiterate them again now. I will continue to raise these issues in the Assembly, including by putting proposals to the government and by tabling revised legislation in the Assembly. If any members want to work with me on this issue, I of course invite them to contact me at any time.

Firstly, we can set up what is called a compassionate access scheme. In New South Wales this is referred to as the TICS, or terminally ill cannabis scheme. The scheme provides guidelines for New South Wales police officers to help them determine the appropriate circumstances in which to use their discretion not to charge adults with terminal illness who use cannabis and/or cannabis products to alleviate their symptoms and carers who assist them. New South Wales residents aged 18 years and over who have a terminal illness are eligible to register for the scheme.

There are many forms such a scheme could take, and I would suggest we could do better than the New South Wales one, which is quite strict and which I know many people do not think goes far enough. As it stands, we do not even have a simple access scheme for terminally ill people. I have previously written to the government seeking that they move quickly on this issue as a basic interim measure. The scheme I proposed in my legislation was basically an expanded version of a TIC scheme, but it was legislated rather than presented as guidelines for police. It applied to a wider range of people than just those who are terminally ill, and it tried to address the supply issue by allowing people to cultivate small amounts of cannabis strictly for this purpose.

A second action—and this is the path I think we should now be taking—is to create our own ACT government-run scheme to supply medicinal cannabis to people who need it. To clarify, this involves the ACT government either growing or importing a consistent medicinal cannabis product and become the supplier for eligible patients. There would, of course, still be various strict criteria for people to be eligible and the involvement of medical professionals in assessing these people, but the government would be the supplier.

Importantly, it appears that this is now a legally available option. Previously there has been a maze of frustrating federal barriers that prevented the ACT and other state jurisdictions from being able to set up an effective state-controlled model of supply for medicinal cannabis. These barriers dictated the details of the model I proposed last year, but it now appears the landscape is much more conducive to a model of government supply.

The federal government has recently announced that it will remove barriers that prevent states and territories from growing cannabis for medicinal purposes. The details will be important, but it appears the changes will open the door for the ACT government to both grow and supply medicinal cannabis. We have seen that Victoria has now gone down this path. It will establish an office of medicinal cannabis within

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