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Government Review Proves Medicinal Cannabis System Is A Disaster: Advocates, Industry, Greens, CWA Slam ‘Abject Failure’

May 5, 2019

Specialist Submissions to a Review of Australia’s medicinal cannabis (MC) legislation reveal ‘an ill-conceived, directionless system in chaos and absolute meltdown‘ a veteran advocate claims.

Lucy Haslam, the campaigner who, with her late son Dan, fought for and won legal changes around access to the drug in 2016 says the evaluation process – which began last November – is ‘already demonstrating beyond doubt what a disaster this country’s MC so-called ‘programme’ has been‘.

Over two dozen Public Submissions have been received by a Secretariat set up to meet a statutory obligation to assess the legislation’s impact two years after it took effect[1]. The documents have been posted online[2] by the Office of Drug Control which oversees various aspects of the Australian MC programme. The closing date for Submissions was 2nd April.

Alongside Mrs Haslam’s own organisation United in Compassion, the Country Women’s Association and representatives from Australia’s nascent cannabis industry have also contributed – almost all ferociously critical of how medicinal cannabis has been administered and rolled out.

Joining them in their denunciation is the Greens’ Richard di Natale who has promised to introduce a Bill in the next Parliament to create a stand-alone Regulatory for medicinal cannabis.

‘Forcing patients to act like criminals is the crime, not using medicinal cannabis. We will fight until everyone can access medicinal cannabis when they need it,’ Sen. Di Natale said.

Collectively the Submissions paint a damning picture of dysfunctional management procedures, an absence of clear policy objectives and a backlog of around 200 cannabis cultivation and licence applications to serve a market of an estimated 2,500 ‘legal’ patients. Original estimates provided to the Government by consulting giant Deloitte in 2015 suggested 15-18 producers would be required to cater for 30,000 patients[3]. There are currently believed to be well in excess of 100,000 sick Australians accessing the medicine illegally.

Commenting on the Submissions Mrs Haslam said:

We’ve been saying for years how this legislation has failed, now there’s proof plenty for all to see. United in Compassion has created its own lengthy Submission[4] which goes into great detail about exactly what’s wrong with the current system and how it can never work properly. While it’s at least heartening that other agree with our arguments it often feels like I’m banging my head against a brick wall; I’m honestly at a loss as to what to do next. Even the recent OpEd in my regional paper the Northern Daily Leader[5] doesn’t seem to have made any difference, it’s like the two main parties are deliberately putting their heads in the sane over this. I’m bewildered.

The article Mrs Haslam refers to was published on 19th April and made a number of explosive revelations drawn from Mrs Haslam’s five years working in advocacy. These include assertions that a family member of a senior Federal Minister is accessing illicit medicinal cannabis products, that doctors and police routinely ask for details of black market suppliers, that a Government-funded researcher has a major conflict of interests and that patient access to MC has been deliberately delayed by conducting needless clinical trials.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

For interviews: Lucy Haslam Tel: 04091 65889 Email: lucy.haslam@uic.org.au

[1] Details of the Review

https://www.tga.gov.au/media-release/review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967

[2] Submissions to the Review

https://www.odc.gov.au/consultation-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967#received

[3] 2015 Deloitte Report to Government 2015

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/modelling-cost-medicinal-cannabis-dae-1609.pdf

[4] United In Compassion Submission to the Review

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-uic.pdf

Main points of the Submission are summarised on UIC’s website ‘Policy Section’ – see:

https://unitedincompassion.com.au/policy/

[5] Lucy Haslam OpEd Norther Daily Leader 19th April 2019

https://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/6067399/opinion-ponder-for-yourself-the-truth-of-the-matter/

 

Selection of Quotes from Submissions

Country Women’s Association of Australia

‘It is our view that since (the 2016 legislation) a rather unworkable policy framework has formed Australia wide…..The Commonwealth system is not only cumbersome but nonsensical in that the medicine is simultaneously approved and not approved.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-cwaa.pdf

Country Women’s Association of NSW

‘Cumbersome regulation is resulting in very limited access to medicinal cannabis….We commend fully to the Review Team the UIC submission which explains in further details the failings of the current policy framework.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-cwa.pdf

Cyrelian Pty Ltd

‘The system has deficiencies in both efficiency and effectiveness. There are many things that can be improved to streamline both the administrative burden and impact on ODC resources, and ultimately benefit industry as the end users.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-cyrelian.pdf

Delta Tetra Group

‘While the NDA 1967 has, in theory, created a federal framework for the safe production and supply of medical cannabis products, in reality this has yet to come to fruition….Slow and cumbersome regulatory requirements have enforced stagnation on an aspirational and vibrant sector…. the unwillingness to accept international trial data to support product development has resulted in an inordinate amount of data recreation, seemingly arbitrarily.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-dtc.pdf

Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics – Sydney University

‘The Act and Regulations are responsible for these ongoing delays. This dysfunction is harming vulnerable Australians….Without a large-scale domestic industry, expensive and imported products will continue to drive thousands of desperate patients into the black market. And research will continue to be hampered by a lack of suitable pre-clinical and clinical material.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-li.pdf

LeafCann Group Pty Ltd

‘The current licence assessment process is unnecessarily long and convoluted, placing an excessive burden on applicants, with many waiting a year or more to receive licences. Delays in the approval process notwithstanding, there is much duplication that can be removed.

There is also a high administrative burden on those seeking to amend or expand their existing licence….The organisational units charged with the administration of the scheme are under-resourced and now have a significant backlog that has had a negative effect on the industry at many levels.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-leafcann.pdf

Medical Cannabis Council Inc (Industry Body)

‘…..there are several issues with the Act and its administration, leading to licence applications being bogged down. This has led to a delay in Australian companies supplying to patients, while putting companies at risk as they wait for applications to be processed….As an example of the impact this has had on the processing of applications, one MCC Member submitted an application for a Cannabis Research Licence 18 months ago, with their last response to a …request for further information being submitted in late 2018, and yet has received no further communication on the status of their application.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-mcc.pdf

Medical Cannabis Industry Australia (Industry Body)

‘Under the current regulatory framework, there is a lack of clarity across regulatory authorities (specifically, the TGA and ODC) and subsequently duplication in relation to a licensed medicinal cannabis manufacturer. This can hamper regulatory activities and creates significant inefficiencies for both the ODC and the TGA licensed manufacturer…The current delivery of the regulatory framework has significant operational inefficiency due to both lack of resources for ODC and inefficient processes and interpretations that are hindering innovation and development.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-mcia.pdf

MediGrowers Pty Ltd

‘With the high increase in license applications being received by the ODC & the current lengthy turnaround times being experienced with applications, how are current License Holders going to be prioritised for Permit Applications , License Renewal Applications & additional License Applications?’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-medigrowers.pdf

Tilray Australia & NZ

‘The Act was passed in 1967. Endnote 3 of the Act indicates that the Act has been extensively amended since 1967. Notwithstanding, the Act does not articulate any clear policy objectives and fails to meet the best practice regulatory principles adopted by COAG.’

https://www.odc.gov.au/sites/default/files/consultation-submission-review-narcotic-drugs-act-1967-tilray.pdf

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