Page 2287 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2016

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Unfortunately in the past we have seen circumstances such as those in New South Wales over a decade ago where a scheme was promised, then there was some degree of public pressure and later the scheme was forced to be abandoned. I think that that was very frustrating for the people involved but I have real confidence that, in the way Minister Fitzharris has described this today, there is a strong framework to deliver this program. Each of the two expert groups that she described has its role to play, and I think they can bring real vigour to this process.

As we move through to finalising the details of the scheme, I think there are a number of key elements that need to be addressed. I do believe that the scheme should not be too restrictive and should be open to people with terminal illnesses as well as other serious illnesses, including children with severe epilepsy where a doctor has been involved and has agreed that that is a suitable treatment pathway. I do consider that it should not be limited to just pharmaceutical cannabis products, of which there are few and which are very expensive. It is likely that they will take many years to develop further.

We do need to have this scheme in place as quickly as possible. Minister Fitzharris has said 2017. I think that is a good time frame. I think it should be within a year, and I think that will meet that time frame. In the interim we do need to be very clear and have an amnesty for genuinely ill people in possession of small amounts of cannabis for medical use. I think that people should not be in a position where they are deriving benefit from this and fearing the possibility of charges arising from that.

Some of that lies at the discretion of the AFP. I think they take a sensible approach to these things. We have seen in the past 12 months a raid by the Australian Federal Police on somebody who was enabling people to access cannabis for medical purposes. That was a very disappointing situation and I hope that as we move towards implementing this scheme we will not see that sort of circumstance arise again.

I simply want to conclude by thanking Minister Fitzharris for bringing forward this statement today, for bringing this reform through. I think this is a great outcome for residents of the ACT, and it will be a real solace to people who are sick and dying that they can now access this treatment in a way that is above board, legitimate and supervised medically. I know that there are people in the community for whom this treatment pathway has made a very significant difference to their lives.

We have seen some of the stories in the press from other jurisdictions. There is one young lady locally who very bravely went to the press earlier this year and described the circumstances that she had been through and the very significant difference it had made to her quality of life, her ability to go back to studies. I think that having this more above-board and legitimate pathway rather than it having to be something that people were reluctant to talk about is a very good outcome for our community.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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