Medicinal marijuana could be available in Australia by April

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Just days after the Victorian government successfully harvested the nation’s first legal crop of medicinal cannabis, federal health minister Greg Hunt has announced the federal government has decided to fast-track the import of the drug so seriously ill patients could be using it as soon as April.

The decision means doctors could be prescribing medicinal marijuana to approved patients within two months.

Hunt said it was an interim measure until domestic production is enough to meet local demand and will be done through approved commercial importers.

Currently approved doctors must import the product for patients themselves.

Speaking on ABC radio this morning, the minister said his decision to act was in part influenced by a former senior public servant who has terminal cancer.

The drug has been found to help people with chronic illnesses and severe pain, especially cancer, epilepsy and motor neurone disease.

The change means patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis by an authorised doctor will be able to source it from an Australian company.

“We have listened to the concerns of patients and their families that are having difficulty accessing the product on prescription whilst domestic production becomes available,” Hunt said.

The minister said the Department of Health had already written to a number of companies that were interested in supplying the Australian market.

“Supply of medicinal cannabis products will remain a controlled process and there are a number of strict conditions that will be placed on importers and suppliers around handling, secure storage and accounting for cannabis products,” he said.

On Monday, Victorian agriculture minister Jaala Pulford said cannabis grown in a secret location by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources had been harvested and was now being tested and formulated in preparation for treating the state’s priority patients – children suffering from severe epilepsy.

The first cannabis research licence was granted by the Department of Health’s Office of Drug Control to Victorian-based Cann Group.

Victoria was the first state to legalise access to medicinal cannabis and the product will be the first locally-produced and legal medicinal cannabis in Australia.

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