Victoria has become the first state in Australia to legalise medicinal cannabis.
Residents in Victoria will have access to the drug in “exceptional circumstances”, after the state's parliament passed The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 on Tuesday.
Children with severe epilepsy will be given first access to the drug from early 2017, said Victorian Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy. Medicinal cannabis will then gradually be made accessible to palliative care and HIV patients.
“It is absolutely heart-breaking to see families having to choose between breaking the law and watching their children suffer,” said Ms Hennessy. “And now, thanks to our ground-breaking legislation, they won’t have to.”
The bill delivers on an election promise from the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews. In October he announced the state government would legalise medical cannabis, saying in a statement he had “seen first-hand how medical cannabis can change people’s lives.”
The Bill will create a legal framework to enable the manufacture, supply and access to safe and high quality medical cannabis products in Victoria, Mr Andrews said in a statement on his website.
The Government will also create an Office of Medical Cannabis to oversee manufacturing and all clinical aspects of the drug.
The Office will educate clinicians. doctors and general practitioners about their role in prescribing medical cannabis as well as teaching patients and families about their eligibility for the scheme.
Initially, the government will supply cannabis products to the first patient group. A key part of the bill involves establishing cultivation and manufacturing industries in Victoria that will ensure an ongoing and reliable supply of products.
Victoria’s Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, said “the first cultivation trial [is] about to get underway”, which will be small-scale and strictly controlled at a Victorian research facility.
Queensland and New South Wales state government are both running clinical trials into the drug. The states are yet to fully legalise medicinal cannabis.
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