Inquiry into Australia’s medical cannabis system launched

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Australia’s Senate voted last week to establish an inquiry into barriers to patients accessing medicinal cannabis – and there are plenty of them.

A motion by Greens leader Richard Di Natale sought a wide-ranging inquiry covering issues including:

  • Appropriateness of the current regulatory regime.
  • Potential for subsidising medical cannabis under the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme.
  • Training and education of doctors.
  • Delays in accessing and substitution of products.
  • Impacts on patients under the current regulatory scheme.
  • Financial barriers for patients wanting to access medicines.

The inquiry, which will be led by Dr. Di Natale, will also examine how Australia’s regime stacks up against other countries and look into international best practice models for patient access.

The Greens leader has been very critical of Australia’s approach to medical cannabis, stating back in March that access was “a mess”.

“I’ve heard from hundreds of people in the community who were given hope when the parliament legalised medicinal cannabis in 2016, only to have had their hopes dashed when they tried to fight through endless layers of confusing red tape,” said Dr. Di Natale on Sunday. “This inquiry will cut through the red tape and shine a light on the deep failures of Australia’s medicinal cannabis system. Patients deserve to finally have hope that they’ll be able to access the medicine they desperately need.”

The Federal Government isn’t exactly thrilled with the inquiry, with Liberal Senator Jonathon Duniam reportedly stating the demand for it ignored what he said was “significant progress” towards making medicinal cannabis more accessible.

Patient advocacy group United In Compassion welcomed news of the inquiry.

“Finally, a chance for patients to have their say!,” it stated. “UIC would like to encourage all disadvantaged patients to make a submission to this inquiry.”

Submissions need to be lodged before 17 January 2020. Further detail about the scope of the inquiry is provided in the terms of reference, and other information including submission guidelines are available here.

The committee isn’t just seeking submissions from patients, but also families and carers impacted by current medicinal cannabis regulations in Australia.

No doubt the inquiry committee will be very busy in the months ahead.

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