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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11566

Medicinal Cannabis

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (14:57): A question for the Minister for Health: will the minister update the House on the government's plans to ensure controlled cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes?

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Moreton has been warned; that is his final warning.

Ms LEY (FarrerMinister for Health, Minister for Sport and Minister for Aged Care) (14:57): I thank the member for Bowman for his question and for his ongoing input through the various parliamentary committees in this place into health policy. I would like to thank colleagues who have worked hard on this issue, which I see as ultimately a bipartisan one.

On the weekend, the government announced that we would legislate to provide the missing link that would enable states to cultivate and supply cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. In effect, that missing link is from farm to pharmacy. Can I acknowledge the work done by the Senate inquiry—in particular, by Senator Di Natale and Senator Ian Macdonald. I do look forward to further engagement, and the government intends to introduce these amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act by the end of this year.

We know that, for patients in extreme circumstances—those in pain, in palliative care; children with refractory epilepsy; some cases of multiple sclerosis—anecdotally, medicinal cannabis provides the only relief. And, while it is quite legal to import supplies and provide them—always, of course, with your doctor at the centre of your treatment—those supplies are very hard to get and they are very expensive, and we know that people cannot wait. The missing piece, as I come back to, is the ability for the states to cultivate and supply.

On the weekend, I was at Westmead Hospital with the New South Wales minister for medical research and for mental health, Pru Goward, with the primary industries minister, Niall Blair, and with Dr Nick Lintzeris, who is working at the University of Sydney, and it was interesting, as it always is, to talk to clinicians about further research and the building of evidence. It was interesting to talk to the primary industries minister about the ability for the New South Wales government—and, I am sure, other governments—to cultivate a supply and actually create a pharmaceutical industry.

As I said, there is more work to do and we need to keep the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is world-class in its ability to implement the arrangements about safe, sustainable and of course legal use. I know that the Special Access Scheme that operates inside the TGA is the one that is there now for patients who need help urgently. I am committed to making that Special Access Scheme work as effectively and as well as possible. The steps that we take in health must always be with the patients in mind, and this is very much a measure for the patients. Their advice, their input, their passion and their advocacy has helped bring this measure to the Australian parliament.