Federal Government Introduces Medical Cannabis Licensing Bill Into Parliament

Thursday 11 February 2016 @ 12.09 p.m. | Legal Research

Yesterday, Minister for Health Sussan Ley introduced the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 into the House of Representatives.  The Bill aims to provide a national framework for medical cannabis cultivation and research in Australia, and amends the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (Cth) and the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth).

Introducing the Bill, Ms Ley said:

“Importantly this bill provides the critical 'missing piece' for the Commonwealth to enable a sustainable supply of safe medicinal cannabis products to Australian patients in the future.

This government understand that there are some Australians suffering from severe medical conditions for which cannabis may have some application, and we want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available. At the same time, it is important we maintain the same high safety standards for products derived from cannabis that we apply to any other medicine.”

Cultivation Licences

According to the second reading speech, the proposed national licensing system would include two types of cultivation:

“one that allows for the cultivation of cannabis plants for the production of cannabis for medicinal purposes; and

the other to authorise cultivation for research purposes related to medicinal cannabis such as strain selection and assay identification.”

Both of these would require the applicant to meet a set of criteria to be declared a “fit and proper person”, which according to the Explanatory Memorandum, would:

 “involve consideration of a range of matters including criminal history, connections, associates and family, financial status, business history and capacity to comply with licensing requirements.”

Licenses would also be subject to a permit system which would control the volume of cannabis production.

Penalties

The Bill also includes new penalties for breaches of the licensing system (unlicensed production would continue to be regulated under existing legislation).  These include criminal penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment or up to 600 penalty units (currently $108,000) for manufacturing drugs outside of the licence restrictions, and civil penalties of up to 1000 penalty units ($180,000).

Minister Says Labor and Greens “Supportive”

ABC News reported:

“Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Government had briefed Labor and the Greens and was optimistic about receiving their support for the move.

"We know the Greens are supportive," Ms Ley said.

"In fact, I've had support across the chambers and around the country and I really believe this is bipartisan."

She hoped the legislation would pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate this sitting of Parliament.”

However, the Sydney Morning Herald reported it was unclear whether the Bill would pass the Senate, and noted that the Government is still considering “a separate Greens-led bill for a national regulator that would oversee growth, manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis… [which] has support from both Liberal and Labor senators.”  The Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 is still in the Senate where it was introduced, with a report from the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee completed in August last year.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products.

Sources:

Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 (Cth), Explanatory Memorandum and Second Reading Speech - available from TimeBase's LawOne Service

Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 (Cth) - available from TimeBase's LawOne Service

New medical cannabis laws to be tabled, Sussan Ley confident of bipartisan support (Alexandra Beech, ABC News, 10/02/2016)

Government medicinal cannabis bill to be tested in Parliament (Jane Lee, The Sydney Morning Herald, 10/02/2016)

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