Medicinal cannabis access made easier for approved patients

by Jon Meadmore, Melanie Williamson, Harriette Watson
24 February 2017

In brief - Interim supply from international sources allowed to meet short-term demand

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on 22 February 2017 that the Federal Government would move to facilitate faster access to medicinal cannabis for patients with the pre-existing Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme approvals.
 
Under the new import scheme, the Office of Drug Control will authorise controlled importation of medicinal cannabis products by approved companies (called "sponsors") from approved international sources for interim supply in Australia, until domestic production meets local needs.

Amendments aim to speed up and facilitate access for approved patients under the Narcotic Drugs Act 

Amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (Cth) in November 2016 provided for the legal cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis in Australia. While some production and cultivation licenses have been granted to Australian companies, the domestic supply is still some months away.
 
The delay in domestic supply has meant that patients with approval through the Federal Government's Special Access Scheme or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme, and the relevant state access schemes, have been sourcing medicinal cannabis from overseas suppliers with approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This is a case-by-case approval process which is reportedly slow, costly and difficult to comply with.
 
As a result, many patients have been forced to go without medication or source medicinal cannabis on the black market. The new amendments seek to prevent this.

Sponsors of medicinal cannabis must comply with regulations and statutory conditions

Sponsors who intend to import medicinal cannabis products will need to be able to demonstrate a potential supply chain through the Special Access Scheme and Authorised Prescriber Scheme, and meet any state or territory requirements. They will also have statutory conditions imposed upon them in respect of the supply, storage and recording of the medicinal cannabis products.

This article has been published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for information and education purposes only and is a general summary of the topic(s) presented. This article is not specific legal advice. Please seek your own legal advice for any questions you may have. All information contained in this article is subject to change. Colin Biggers & Paisley cannot be held responsible for any liability whatsoever, or for any loss howsoever arising from any reliance upon the contents of this article.