Australia Considers Legal Medical Cannabis – with a new “Cannabis Czar’

600 RCB Bill dummy dummies cannabis























The Regulator Cannabis Bill 2014 (RCB) – Cheat Sheet

 10 August 2015

  • What a surreal day, perhaps the biggest in the history of medical cannabis legalisation in Australia, and the coverage and stories in anticipation of this are few and far between, old or very thin on details or facts.  This is not surprising as miss information is intentional by some in this crazy time of medical cannabis legal reform. However the Bill has now been deferred at least a day until 11 August, but it goes like this.
  • Currently Cannabis is considered a poison in Australia and deemed as having no medical value by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) as it schedules poisons and drugs to keep folks safe and is run by the Australia Government. Likewise, herbs such as mint and thyme are not considered poisons cannot be patented so also are not in the TGA.
  • For Cannabis to be legalised there are only 2 choices, change or amend but work within the TGA, or bypass the TGA altogether.
  • Any Bills, laws, trials tests, initiatives, or research looking to provide medical cannabis (or extracts, or synthesis) have to adhere to one of those 2 scenarios, each with a major impact on the resulting framework of legalisation.
  • Last year a group of Australia Senators lead by now Greens leader Richard Ni Natalie introduced a new cross party bill called the Regulator Cannabis Bill 2014 (I call it the weed czar bill). In respect to the TGA it looks to bypass it stating that ‘Cannabis is not a poison, has no place in the TGA as it is ‘natural’
  • Due to the complicated nature of passing a bill in Australia there are various stages, (see picture below). This is a private members Senator bill so takes low priority in the Senate. The 1st reading has taken place already, today after 14:-00 the formal report into the Bill will be handed in (tabled) with little discussion expected.
  • Early in 2015, submissions were taken in respect to the RCB. It saw individuals, groups, politicians, universities, pharmaceutical companies etc. all offer opinions on why the Bill should or should not pass. The majority of the responses were quite favorable with very little opposition. The link to all those submissions is here



Short Overview of the RC Bill Itself

This Bill establishes a Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis (the Regulator).

The Regulator will be responsible for formulating rules for licensing the production, manufacture, supply, use, experimental use and import and export of medicinal cannabis. The Regulator has powers to monitor compliance with this Bill and also to investigate breaches. A number of provisions of the Bill make it clear that the TGA does not apply to things done in accordance with licences or authorisations issued by the new Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis. However, this would not prevent pharmaceutical companies applying to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to sell medicinal cannabis instead of using the scheme established by this Bill. They will effectively have a choice about which system to use (although the cultivation of medicinal cannabis will only be covered by this Bill).

In the bill Cannabis actually IS discussed as Cannabis not a pharmaceutical extract, or synthesis of Cannabis, those per above are covered also.

The Bill Addresses the Framework Only – The Regulator does the rest.

  • Being that the bill itself addresses the appointing of the Regulator and the framework of that role, it specifically does not look to address some other very important details leaving to the Regulator or is outside the scope of this Bill.

Distribution – To be addressed by the regulator

  • Will cannabis come from local Australia growers, or be imported
  • Will cannabis be sold in pharmacies (so with very little choice of product) or via a USA dispensary type model, allowing free enterprise, taxation, and more choice.

What ailments are covered and who decides who gets Cannabis? – To be addressed by the regulator

Decriminalisation – To be addressed by separate legislation

  • Not addressed in the framework of the Bill so the Greens have suggested separate legislation to address this preferring decriminalisation to legalisation.


Competing Bills That Might Impact on the RC Bill

  • Earlier this year in Victoria, the Premier for Victorian Daniel Andrews issued a mandate to the VLRC (Victoria Law Review Commission) to make recommendations that would result in their own Bill with a promise action by end of 2015.
  • The VLRC initiative included an interesting framework document that it then set up discussions across mostly rural Victoria (attended by mostly people not local to those meetings). It now has gone national and includes work by the ALRC as well. T
  • he questions asked by the VLRC were various but mainly around how the VLRC would work within the TGA, and what Submissions were taken on this project that included many form inside and outside medical cannabis support groups and they are here. . The actual VLRC paper is here . The final report on the VLRC is due by 1 September 2015 with a bill promised thereafter.
  • The VLRC goes National –
    It was reported that as expected by the VLRC the (Victoria Only) suggestions are now going to the ALRC for national considerations. This might mean a rival Bill that might not be cross party may be written as well.

Difference between the VLRC/ALRC Potential Bills vs. The Regulator Bill 2014

  • Note: It is difficult to discuss a Bill that has not been debated or addressed by changes as a result of discussions (the RC Bill) with a Bill that has not even been written yet (The VLRC/ALRC) However, we have the RC Bill and we have the VLRC paper as a benchmark and many have had discussion on both.
  • The VLRC view is they must work within the scope of the TGA (see what that means above). The VLRC has said having exceptions on Cannabis in the TGA on a state by state basis is viewed as too controversial per the view of Labor Victoria (something that is already part of the TGA framework actually) so that is what I call a BS moment..
  • The RC Bill looks to offer much better blanket usage of Medical Cannabis, and covers real cannabis and pharmaceutical variants.
  • The VLRC looks to offer very little coverage of ailments perhaps limiting to;
  • End of life, (palliative care)
  • Child epilepsy,
  • Cancer and maybe
  • Chronic pain. All of which might be treated with pharmaceutical cannabis (easier via the TGA)

Other Things to consider

  • Though the Australia Medical Association (AMA) has come out against the RC Bill, (see submissions link) they will likely support the VLRC bill, many others considered to be anti-cannabis have supported the RC Bill, as it allows use of Pharma cannabis to be considered.

What Next?

The RC Bill will make its way through Parliament, as it does the VLRC bill will likely show up in September. The next battle for legislation will be trying to keep Pharma out of it and calling BS as it appears.

comments welcome


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