Australian Government Launches Inquiry into "Broken" Medicinal Cannabis System

The Greens Party claim that the government's medicinal cannabis program is urgent need of reform.

The Australian Government will conduct a Parliamentary Inquery into the regulation of medicinal cannabis, after a proposed inquiry by the Greens Party won support in the Senate earlier this month.

The primary focus of the inquiry will be the ongoing restrictions that can often block patients from accessing medicinal marijuana, such as pricing and availability. This will include looking into "delays in access" caused by the importation of medicinal cannabis, as well as the ongoing shortage of locally manufactured product.

The Greens received support in Parliament from Labor and crossbench senators for its proposed inquiry, allowing the minor party to defeat the Federal Government with 35 votes to 31.

The difficulty in accessing cannabis in rural and remote areas is also expected to come under the microscope, as is the "significant" financial barriers that can prevent some patients from accessing the drug.

It's been shoehorned into a system that is not fit for purpose, and all that's achieved is delays, expense and suffering for Australian patients. Greens Party leader, Richard Di Natale

The leader of the Greens, Richard Di Natale, said that the review is long overdue, as patients have continued to face obstacles when trying access to medicinal cannabis, thanks to "dysfunctional" regulations.

"The failure of the current system has led to thousands of patients being denied access to medicine, with many being forced to turn to the black market. Doctors shouldn't be turning away sick people because of the complexities of prescribing cannabis," Di Natale said.

 "For far too long patients have been denied access to essential medication by a system that simply doesn't work as intended.

"This inquiry will…look into whether doctors have the information they need to prescribe it, and whether patients have access to the medicine they need."

As part of the inquiry, the Senate's community affairs committee will also examine the drug's potential suitability for government subsidies via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemes (PBS).

However, the Federal Government has denied that there is a need to review the medicinal cannabis system, arguing that it already allows patients with legitimate healthcare needs to access the drug.  

The proposed inquiry also received pushback from Liberal Senator Jonathon Duniam, who claimed that the Greens proposed inquiry did not take into account the "significant progress" that has been made towards increasing doctor and patient awareness.

"The Morrison government continues to make it easier for doctors to access medicinal cannabis products more rapidly while maintaining strict safeguards for individual and community safeguards," he stated.

"There is no barrier to applications to the PBS. PBS applicants must, by law, be determined on medicinal, not political grounds as proposed in this motion."

As evidence of this, Senator Duniam pointed to the 15,000 medicinal cannabis patients that have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) since the drug was first made legal in 2016.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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