Dan’s Law was put in place to legalise the cultivation of medicinal cannabis in Australia. But was it all for nothing?
A Quick Run-Down
In brief, rather than making things easier, the legislative changes of 2016 which were supposed to make cannabis and cannabis products available to sick Australians have barely improved matters at all. Patients still struggle to obtain such medicines legally while a huge black market has developed servicing hundreds of thousands of people, dwarfing the c. 2,000-strong ‘licit market’ by orders of magnitude. The products supplied by this illicit market are of course of unknown quality and safety, completely illegal and are being used without medical supervision, placing thousands of sick people in harm’s way.
This remains true no matter how hard the Government tries to spin the story of how great it is that over over three thousand prescriptions have now been approved and that it’s medicinal cannabis Framework is a success. We can promise you, it is not.
The fact is, ‘approvals’ do not equal numbers of patients when repeats, trials of different products and unfulfilled prescriptions are taken into account – and most of these are in any case concentrated in just a couple of States.
This has happened because when the 2016 law was written the Government had just one major aim, which was to make sure Australia complied with International Drug Treaties in order to protect this country’s lucrative poppy straw trade (we supply over 50% of the world’s raw materials used to make opioid medicines).
Apart from this though, no other objectives were created in terms of what the 2016 legislation was supposed to achieve – meaning quite literally no-one in Government was or is able say whether the legislation has succeeded or failed – because apart from compliance with these Treaties nobody decided from the outset what the new law was intended to do.
It’s no wonder then things have become such a mess.
A knock-on of the 2016 legislation has been that medicinal cannabis and other cannabis products fall into a state of permanent ‘regulatory limbo’. They are – quite literally ‘approved unapproved medicines’.
This is because strict standards have been set about how they’re grown and manufactured (meaning in that sense they’re ‘approved for use in Australia’) yet none are listed (or are ever likely to be) in this country’s ARTG – the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. As such they are therefore also ‘unapproved for use in Australia’.
If that sounds insane, it’s because it is! But the upshot is that the only available access pathway to cannabis and cannabis products outside of clinical trials is one known as the Special Access Scheme – a Federally-run system which allows doctors to prescribe such unapproved medicines. But this is to be used only as a last resort, for use in ‘exceptional clinical circumstances’.
On top of this State & Territory Health Department approval is also required resulting in a postcode lottery developing with approvals in some states running into hundreds or more while others have seen just a handful or even none whatsoever.
Doctors meanwhile are starving for facts and knowledge about cannabis medicine since the Government has done nothing to help educate them while putting in place rules that actually prohibit Licensed Cannabis Producers from making critical information available.
Together, these explain why so few patients have been granted approvals (while thousands use products illegally) and why UIC feels the system is unfit for purpose.
We’re still trying to get Labor to show us a policy on medicinal cannabis.
If you’ve not seen this short video, here’s Bill Shorten telling us what he thinks about medicinal cannabis – which sounds great.
The TGA system in Australia makes it almost impossible to access the medicine and is too long and too cumbersome;
– That Canada has a much better system;
– That parents shouldn’t remain criminals if they want to alleviate the pain of their children;
– That the Australian Government has been too slow.
He says if he a child who had severe epileptic fits of a severe nature or if a loved one in severe pain and the treating doctor or the patient felt that cannabis oil would be of assistance in relieving their pain he would would break the law.
He says Labor will change the law.
But will they?
Please help us keep the pressure on. We remain hopeful they’ll do the right thing. See below for things you can do. Thank you!
We need get the system changes, it’s as simple as that – and we’ll need Federal Labor onside to do it. The problem is thus far it hasn’t made its plans clear – and we need them to do so before the next General Election.
If you want to help, we believe there are three things you can do that are likely to have a big impact so please, if you’re able to, try to take at least one of the below actions (all three if you possibly can):
Write to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his Shadow Health Minister and ask them to publish their policy on medicinal cannabis before the next General Election. We’ve drafted an email for you or you can of course write your own message:
Encourage your doctor to come to our 2019 Medicinal Cannabis Symposium in March (or come yourself!).
Featuring globally renowned specialists, doctors and academics at the forefront of cannabis science and technology, the speakers – from as far afield as Israel, Canada & the US – will share their knowledge, skills and research in what these days is among the most exciting and rapidly evolving areas of study and clinical practice on Earth.
More info here: