In early 2016 Victoria led the way and became the first state in Australia to legalise access to medicinal cannabis. At the time there was no Commonwealth regulatory framework, and so the Victorian Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 envisaged a stand-alone Victorian scheme that regulated both manufacture and patient access.
Following Victoria's leadership, legislative change at the Commonwealth level has brought the regulation of medicinal cannabis within the existing Commonwealth Narcotic Drugs and Therapeutic Goods regulatory frameworks. The Commonwealth has introduced a comprehensive regulatory scheme for cultivation and manufacture and changed the scheduling of cannabis products to clarify their status under existing Therapeutic Goods regulation.
The Commonwealth has also permitted the importation of bulk supplies of medicinal cannabis products from overseas, and recently announced its intention to permit the export of locally produced medicinal cannabis products.
With the Commonwealth now regulating cultivation, manufacture and patient access - the Victorian Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act is no longer needed as a vehicle to facilitate access. As a consequence, Victoria will be taking action to minimise Victorian regulation and will not be setting up additional state-based cannabis-specific regulatory frameworks. For more information on how to access medicinal cannabis, please click here < https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/drugs-and-poisons/medicinal-cannabis/access>
Access to Medicinal Cannabis and patient eligibility
The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act assumed that the only available products would be Victorian made and it limited eligible patient groups (initially only children with epilepsy), on the assumption of limited supply.
With imports now available and no restrictions on patient groups under the Commonwealth regulatory schemes, Victorian patients have access to medicinal cannabis (if prescribed by their doctor) regardless of age or medical condition. All patients are now 'eligible' patients.
This means that prescribing doctors in Victoria are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for any medical condition, provided they have the relevant Commonwealth approvals from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and - if the product is a Schedule 8 product - a Schedule 8 Treatment Permit under the Victorian Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act.
For more information on how to access medicinal cannabis, please click here < https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/drugs-and-poisons/medicinal-cannabis/access>
Changes to manufacturing and distribution
There will be no specific medicinal cannabis manufacturing licence scheme in Victoria. However, appropriate licences to manufacture or wholesale scheduled medicines under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act are still required.
Victorian manufacturers will not be required to sell only to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Manufacturers will be able to export or distribute within Victoria, interstate, or overseas, provided appropriate licences are in place. Doctors and pharmacists will also be able to source product direct from local manufacturers or wholesalers, in the same way they do for other pharmaceuticals.
For information on manufacturing and wholesaling requirements, please click here < https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/drugs-and-poisons/medicinal-cannabis/posession-sale-supply-in-victoria>
Expansion of the Compassionate Access Scheme
In March 2017 the Victorian Government provided early compassionate access to imported medicinal cannabis for 29 of the most severely ill Victorian children with intractable epilepsy.
Funding has now been allocated to continue and expand this scheme until June 2020 to provide access to up to 60 children with severe intractable epilepsy.
Further information about the compassionate access scheme will be available on our website shortly.