Page 2284 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2016

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Last year the government responded to an inquiry by the health, ageing, community and social services committee. In its response the government indicated its strong preference for a nationally consistent framework for medicinal cannabis. The commonwealth legislation is a major step forward although exact time frames are still not yet known. We will work quickly to enable access to medicinal cannabis products as soon as possible.

In addition, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has made an interim decision, which is expected to be enacted in the coming months, to reschedule medicinal cannabis from schedule 9 prohibited substance to schedule 8 controlled drug under the poisons standard. The ACT automatically adopts Therapeutic Goods Administration scheduling decisions through relevant provisions in the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008.

While the national scheme will provide the framework for the management of the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products, jurisdictional governments are responsible for the development of a system to manage the distribution, prescription, possession and use of medicinal cannabis products. The rescheduling of medicinal cannabis will have the immediate effect of making medicinal cannabis a controlled medicine in the ACT.

In light of these developments and the government’s desire to enable a medicinal cannabis scheme, it is clear that the ACT government requires a considered and coherent framework to support the management of medicinal cannabis products. To this end, since the passage of the commonwealth legislation I and senior officials from Health, other government agencies and the police have been working towards a framework to give effect to the government’s intentions. As it stands, there is no immediate requirement to amend ACT legislation to facilitate the implementation of a medicinal cannabis scheme in the ACT.

Currently, under existing regulations for the prescription of schedule 8 medicines, they can be prescribed with the approval of the Chief Health Officer. This framework gives the ACT an opportunity to implement a scheme with clear regulatory oversight that protects both patients and public health. However, while there is no legislative change required at this stage there are a number of matters that need to be considered.

To begin with, we must align the existing controlled medicines approval processes to support the supply of safe, high quality medicinal cannabis products to eligible individuals. Further, as there is currently no clinical guidance on what types of conditions medicinal cannabis can and should be prescribed for, the government will also develop evidence-based and expert, informed guidance documentation to inform and support medical practitioners in how best to prescribe medicinal cannabis products. This documentation will include advice on appropriate indications and dosage. We will also develop education materials for clinicians and the general public to support this guidance.

In implementing a medicinal cannabis scheme we must be mindful of the potential impacts it will have on law enforcement and criminal activity. We will implement a

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