The Andrews Labor Government is committed to making medicinal cannabis legal for patients in exceptional circumstances. The Victorian Parliament passed legislation to enable access to locally manufactured medicinal cannabis products for a defined group of patients. Children with severe epilepsy will be able to access legal medicinal cannabis products from early 2017.
The Office of Medicinal Cannabis will be established within the Department of Health and Human Services and will be responsible for all clinical and manufacturing aspects of the medicinal cannabis framework. The Office will work closely with the medical profession as well as patients and families before the scheme starts in Victoria.
The Independent Medical Advisory Committee will provide advice to the Victorian Government on the types of medicinal cannabis products that should be available to Victorian patients, and the expansion of eligibility to include other patient groups.
Medicinal cannabis use
One of the greatest risks in relation to medicinal cannabis is there is currently no legally available product, and no oversight by appropriate health professionals.
Black market products may contain unknown ingredients that can put people at risk. It is also difficult to monitor appropriate dosages, and there are risks of interactions and reactions with other medicines.
Once the scheme commences in early 2017, patients will be able to speak with their medical practitioners about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis, and whether it may be appropriate as part of their treatment.
Changing the law
The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 passed the Victorian Parliament on 12 April 2016 to enable patients in exceptional circumstances to access legal medicinal cannabis products. The first group of patients will be able to access these products from early 2017.
The legislation implements the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Medicinal Cannabis Report, which undertook a comprehensive review on the options to change an outdated law.