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Medicinal cannabis in Queensland

A proposed law would permit the limited medicinal use of some form of cannabis, while continuing to prohibit recreational use

The Parliament of Queensland is debating a proposal to authorize and regulate medicinal cannabis (medical marijuana) for certain patients. If passed in its present form, Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 would allow certain patients to use cannabis to relieve symptoms of serious diseases.

It is generally accepted that cannabis is a safe and effective appetite stimulant. It also relieves nausea in many patients. That makes it a useful drug for cancer patients, for patients with HIV/AIDS, and for others who suffer from wasting diseases or whose medical treatment produces appetite loss or nausea.

Current law

Cannabis is a prohibited substance under Commonwealth law and under the Queensland Drugs Misuse Act 1986. In Queensland, it is an offence to produce, supply, or use cannabis without authorization.

The Queensland Government recently amended the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1986 to permit research to be conducted into the health benefits of cannabis. It also allows an individual to use medicinal cannabis in Queensland if that use has also been approved by the Commonwealth.

In February 2016, the Commonwealth passed a bill that will allow licensed businesses to cultivate cannabis and to manufacture medicinal cannabis products. The intent of that bill is to make a safe, regulated supply of medicinal cannabis available to approved patients.

Changes the Bill Would Make

The Bill is intended to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis in Queensland. It would permit doctors to incorporate medicinal cannabis into a patient’s treatment plan. It would also make access to medicinal cannabis products available through regulated industries, provided that the patient has a valid prescription.

If the Bill passes, regulators will need to decide upon the cannabis products that will be permitted. Three medicinal cannabis products are currently approved for therapeutic use:  nabiximols (also known as Sativex), dronabinol and nabilone. Those products come in a pill form rather than the smokable cannabis buds with which recreational users are familiar.

Regulators may decide to approve similar products in pill form or they may agree that patients should be allowed to buy cultivated cannabis that has not been processed into a different form. Cultivated cannabis would presumably be less expensive but it is also more difficult to control the content of THC (the chemical ingredient that produces a “high”) in cannabis that has not been pharmaceutically processed.

Limits of Reform

The Bill does purport to be a major reform of cannabis laws. Recreational use of cannabis would still be illegal. The cultivation and supply of cannabis would still be illegal, except for businesses that have been licensed to manufacture and distribute medicinal cannabis products.

The Bill does not decriminalise cannabis possession. It would only make it legal for patients with a valid prescription to possess cannabis that they legally acquire. The sources from which the drug will be legally available will also be limited, particularly if the drug is available only in a processed pill form

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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