Specialist Medical Practitioners will be able to prescribe medical cannabis to Tasmanians with serious or chronic illnesses no later than 2017 following action taken by the Tasmanian Liberal Government.
Today, we are pleased to announce that we will establish a Controlled Access Scheme (CAS) allowing Tasmanian with serious, unresponsive medical conditions, to access medical cannabis products when prescribed by a specialist doctor.
While not full decriminalisation, Tasmania’s Controlled Access Scheme will allow broader application of medical cannabis than that proposed by Victoria, which is limited to a single class of patient.
This scheme will allow access to medical cannabis products grown lawfully under Commonwealth licenses, when they come onto the market, which is expected to be as early as 2017.
Under the Controlled Access Scheme a medical specialist doctor will be able to seek approval to prescribe a medical cannabis product for a specified medical condition, for example a child suffering severe epilepsy.
Importantly, the decision of whether or not this is an appropriate treatment for a particular condition for a particular patient will be initiated by specialist doctors.
The Department of Health and Human Services will establish an Expert Panel of clinicians to assess applications.
At present, one of the risks around medical cannabis is the lack of legally available product, and no oversight by appropriate health professionals.
Black market products such as oils, tinctures and plant matter may contain unknown ingredients that can put people at risk. It is also difficult to monitor appropriate dosages, and there are risks of interactions and reactions with other medicines.
Once the scheme is operational, patients will be able to speak with their specialist medical practitioners about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis, and whether it may be appropriate to treat their medical conditions.
Commonwealth law means that Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval will still be required to access medical cannabis products approved under the CAS.
The CAS does not require any legislative change in Tasmania, and it is not decriminalisation of a potent and frequently abused drug which causes significant harm in the community.
It will allow controlled access through arrangements similar to other regulatory controls in place for other controlled substances, and will allow controlled access through medical specialists, while clinical trials continue nationally and internationally to test the efficacy of cannabis as a medicine.
Tasmania continues to be a strong supporter of clinical trials and we are working with the NSW Government, following the MOU we signed last year on a range of issues and opportunities for Tasmanian patients.
The Tasmanian Government will continue to work with local businesses to maximise opportunities to cultivate medical cannabis and manufacture products, under the nationally-consistent licensing scheme operated by the Commonwealth Government.
The Department of Health and Human Services is currently developing the full details of the Controlled Access Scheme and guidelines will be publicly released later this year.
More information is available in a fact sheet prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, available online at http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/217110/Medical_Cannabis_Fact_Sheet.pdf