Victoria is legalising medical cannabis in 2017

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Victoria’s Labor government will legalise access to locally manufactured medicinal cannabis products for use from 2017, delivering an election promise made by premier Daniel Andrews.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report on medicinal cannabis, tabled today, includes 42 recommendations, looking at issues such as patient eligibility and clinical oversight and local production of medical cannabis.

The Government fully accepts 40 of the Commission’s recommendations, and accepts two recommendations in principle and will begin a cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility.

Legislation based on the Commission’s recommendations will be introduced by the end of the year.

Daniel Andrews said his government will also make access to medicinal cannabis for children with severe epilepsy a priority in early 2017. About 450 children will be eligible.

“I’ve seen first-hand how medicinal cannabis can change people’s lives. This landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer,” he said.

The premier said holding toddler Cooper Wallace, 3, who contracted bacterial meningitis when he was just a month old, leaving him with severe brain damage, epilepsy and cerebral palsy, had a profound effect on his views.

“I’ve had one of those most powerful, one of the most emotional stories told to me in all my days, about a loving family who’d been sent home to plan for a little boy’s funeral and instead, through medicinal cannabis had been able to see their son transformed, to see the family transformed. That’s pretty powerful stuff. This was the right decision to make.”

The Department of economic development, jobs, transport and resources will also be given new regulatory functions to license growers to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of medicinal cannabis.

Andrews said he was more cautious about two recommendations, involving patients with chronic pain, because they went beyond Labor’s election commitment.

Health minister Jill Hennessy said the evidence was growing in support of medical cannabis as a treatment option in exceptional circumstances.

“Children with severe epilepsy will be the first to access medicinal cannabis in early 2017 because their condition can be life threatening and medicinal cannabis may be their last treatment option.”

The initial focus for patients is those with a terminal illness or life-threatening condition, starting with the children.

Eligibility for the scheme will be based on the following conditions and corresponding symptoms:

    Severe muscle spasms or severe pain resulting from multiple sclerosis.

    Severe pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting arising from cancer, HIV/AIDS (of the treatment thereof).

    Severe seizures resulting from epileptic conditions where other treatment options have failed or have intolerable side effects.

    Severe chronic pain with the approval of two specialists.

“This is a first for Australia and certainly a first for our state,” Andrews said.

A pharmacy network and specialists to prescribe medicinal cannabis will be established to deal with patients.

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