New laws allow Queensland patients to access medicinal cannabis

Queensland GPs will soon be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients under new laws passed by State Parliament on Wednesday night.

The State Government said the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 provided a legitimate pathway for Queensland patients of any age and with a range of conditions to access legal medicinal cannabis products.

The laws give certain specialists such as oncologists, paediatric neurologists and palliative care specialists the right to prescribe medicinal cannabis from March next year.

Other doctors, including GPs, would be able to apply to Queensland Health for permission to prescribe the drug for patients with certain conditions.

The bill was passed unanimously with Opposition and crossbench support.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the legislation was a milestone for those who had campaigned tirelessly for changes.

“My Government has been moved by the stories of families with young children with epilepsy, suffering life-threatening seizures, and what they have to go through on a daily basis,” she said.

Health Minister Cameron Dick said the bill provided a legitimate pathway for people who had been forced to seek illicit cannabis treatment options.

“Queensland is leading Australia in providing a pathway to access medicinal cannabis treatment for those who need it most, in a safe, controlled way,” he said

Bottles of medicinal cannabis

The use of medicinal cannabis would be integrated into patient treatment plans and overseen by a medical practitioner, to ensure the right monitoring and controls were in place.

The use of cannabis without the appropriate approvals would continue to be illegal in Queensland.

Chair of Health Consumers Queensland, Mark Tucker-Evans, welcomed the changes.

“We look forward to Queenslanders having the legal means to access medicinal cannabis products where they may be of benefit,” he said.

There is currently only one patient who is legally using medicinal cannabis in Queensland.

Approval was given earlier this year for a teenager at Loganholme, south of Brisbane, to use cannabis oil capsules to treat a brain tumour.

The patient was allowed to use the drug under changes made last year to the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation Act.

Mr Dick said other patients could also access the drugs under the regulations in the interim until the laws are enacted in March 2017.

He said the Queensland laws were now the most flexible in the country.

There are limited medicinal cannabis schemes in New South Wales and Victoria.

Internationally, medicinal cannabis has been approved for use in Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

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