Australia is altering its drug laws to allow for the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes, removing a major hurdle to the establishment of clinical trials of the drug, the government said on Saturday (October 17).
Draft amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act are being finalised to allow for the controlled cultivation of marijuana for patients.
"What we are doing is removing the missing piece and allowing the states to step up with the clinical trials that have been underway in NSW for some months, to cultivate and therefore supply the effective raw material for an ongoing safe, legal and sustainable product," Health Minister Sussan Ley told reporters on a visit to a science lab at Westmead in Sydney.
"By providing this missing piece I am delighted that the patients that we all care about and for whom we build the system who are desperately crying out for this product will be able, through the clinical trials in NSW and other states, have access,"she said
Australian manufacturers, researchers and patients currently have to access international supplies of legal medicinal marijuana, with cost, limited supply and export barriers making this challenging.
The government plans to create a licensing scheme to ensure that the cultivation of marijuana meets Australia's international obligations and to manage the supply of the drug from farm to pharmacy.
"Allowing the cultivation of legal medicinal cannabis crops in Australia under strict controls strikes the right balance between patient access, community protection and our international obligations," Ley added in a statement.
Several Australian states have already announced clinical trials for medicinal cannabis. Under Australian law, decriminalization and medical trials come under state government jurisdiction. The Federal government is responsible for the regulation of the growing and importation of the drug.
The proposed changes to the legislation could pave the way for a new medicinal cannabis industry with export potential. Last year,Australia's first initial public offering in a medicinal marijuana company, MMJ PhytoTech Ltd, was three times oversubscribed.