Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 (Qld) Passes Legislative Assembly

Friday 14 October 2016 @ 10.28 a.m. | Legal Research

Queensland GPs will soon be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients under new proposed laws which were passed by State Parliament in the Legislative Assembly on 12 October 2016. The Bill was passed unanimously with Opposition and crossbench support.

The State Government said the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 (the Bill) would provide a legitimate pathway for Queensland patients of any age and with a range of conditions to access legal medicinal cannabis products.

The proposed laws give certain specialists such as:

  • oncologists;
  • paediatric neurologists; and
  • palliative care specialists

the right to prescribe medicinal cannabis from March 2017.

Aim of the Bill

The regulatory framework in the Bill provides two pathways for a patient to receive treatment with medicinal cannabis:

  • under the single-patient prescriber pathway, a medical practitioner who believes their patient may benefit from treatment with medicinal cannabis may apply to the chief executive of Queensland Health for a medicinal cannabis approval to prescribe a medicinal cannabis product for the patient; and
  • under the patient-class prescriber pathway, a regulation may state a class of specialist doctors having an as-of-right authority to prescribe specific medicinal cannabis products for patients suffering a specific range of conditions, without the need for any additional chief executive approval. 

Health Minister Cameron Dick said the Bill provided a legitimate pathway for people who had been forced to seek illicit cannabis treatment options. He said:

"Queensland is leading Australia in providing a pathway to access medicinal cannabis treatment for those who need it most, in a safe, controlled way."

Mr Dick said other patients could also access the drugs under the regulations in the interim until the laws are enacted in March 2017. He said the Queensland laws were now the most flexible in the country. The Bill will be reviewed after two years.

Cannabis use outside regulatory framework still illegal

Any cannabis use outside of the proposed regulatory framework will remain illegal, and the framework will ensure appropriate powers are available to prevent misuse and the risk of the medical cannabis being dispensed, supplied or issued to a person not authorised under the legislation.

This includes the appointment of authorised persons to investigate, monitor and enforce compliance with the Bill. The framework also provides the chief executive with the powers to suspend, cancel, vary or impose conditions on a medicinal cannabis approval.

Chair of Health Consumers Queensland, Mark Tucker-Evans, welcomed the changes:

"We look forward to Queenslanders having the legal means to access medicinal cannabis products where they may be of benefit."

Currently, there is only one patient who is legally using medicinal cannabis in Queensland. Approval was given earlier this year for a teenager at Loganholme, south of Brisbane, to use cannabis oil capsules to treat a brain tumour.

The patient was allowed to use the drug under changes made in 2015 to the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation Act.

Calls for patient amnesty

However, Steve Peek, who uses cannabis oil on his dying eight-year-old daughter to relieve her seizures, said the laws would not solve their problems. He said legal cannabis oil was too expensive and was not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS):

"The fact that we need something now — we can't stop using the product we're using. There's nothing else available and what we're doing is still illegal and we still can't take her to the hospital."

A cannabis oil advocate, Rebecca Brisdon, said the changes did not go far enough:

"The people I help haven't got til March next year to wait for this — the Government are well aware of that. Yes, I'm grateful that there is legislation coming in though. Do I believe that this is the best this Government could have done — No. Do I believe these patients still need an amnesty — Yes."

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Medicinal cannabis: New laws allow access for Queensland patients of any age -

Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 and supporting information – TimeBase LawOne Service

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