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21 Sep 2015

Political momentum to allow medicinal cannabis crops to be grown commercially in Australia is building, with a Senate Committee unanimously endorsing a Bill which would remove current restrictions.

All members of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee have recommended that the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill be passed into law, with amendments.

The Bill was introduced last year by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale and co-sponsored by Liberal Senator Ian McDonald, Labor Senator Anne Urquhart and Independent Senator David Leyonhjelm.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, who previously worked as a GP, said the Senate Committee's unanimous endorsement of his Private Member's Bill was a significant step towards achieving medicinal cannabis reform.

“The next step is to secure sufficient time in the Parliament to bring this Bill to a vote,” Senator Di Natale said.

“I call on [Prime Minister] Tony Abbott to allow this Bill to be debated during Government business. Given that the Bill has co-sponsors from all sides of politics, I hope that we can work together to make this happen.”

Senator Di Natale said the Committee recommended some amendments to strengthen the Bill, which he and his co-sponsors would consider, but stressed this should not be used as an excuse for major delays.

“This issue is not about politics, it's about getting medicine to people who need it. We have an opportunity to relieve the pain and suffering of many Australians if we can just come together and show Parliament at its best.”

Senator McDonald has predicted the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill is likely to pass Federal Parliament by the end of the year.

The Committee's recommendations are designed to amend the Bill to resolve all conflicts with various pieces of existing legislation including the Therapeutic Goods Act and the Narcotics Act, as well as State and Territory laws.

The AMA believes medicinal cannabis should be regulated in the same ways as other therapeutic narcotics.

The Senate report has acknowledged the legislative conflicts that arise from regulating medicinal cannabis differently to other therapeutic narcotics.

The AMA is wary of more complex regulation for medical practitioners, and would favour simple solutions to the complex issues considered by the Senate Committee.

Odette Visser

Published: 21 Sep 2015