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April 21, 2021

Medicinal cannabis access in NSW ‘thwarted’

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Nabiximols, one of a range of proven cannabis-based treatments that are too difficult for most people to access in NSW, according to Labor. File photo

NSW Health data released today shows that between August 2016 and December 2017, only 61 NSW patients had their applications for medicinal cannabis approved – apart from those on official clinical trials.

NSW Labor leader in the Upper House Adam Searle and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord questioned whether the Berejiklian government was actually committed to supporting access to medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill.

Mr Searle and Mr Secord called on the government to ‘remove the state government’s obstacles and look for ways to expand access for those in need – especially palliative care patients’.

The opposition is introducing a new bill into the upper house that it hopes will help many more terminally ill patients to access new cannabis-based drugs without having to go on trials to get access to them.

Mr Searle said while in Canada and Israel, there are tens of thousands of patients getting lawful access to medicinal cannabis.

In Israel, there are 26,000 registered medicinal cannabis users and its total population is almost the same as NSW.

Cumbersome paperwork

‘It’s deeply disappointing to see the lack of effective action by the NSW government in providing pain relief to those suffering terminal and serious medical conditions,’ Mr Searle said.

‘The opposition is being told that patients with terminal illnesses in NSW are suffering because the government is making doctors submit and re-submit applications, resulting in hours and hours of unnecessary and cumbersome paperwork. The requirement for people who are seriously ill to have to navigate complex bureaucratic processes is clearly not working simply or effectively.

‘Access to a safe and secure supply of medicinal cannabis is about compassion. That means we have to find a more responsive way forward,’ he said.

Shake-up needed

Mr Secord said the system is so ‘needlessly bureaucratic’ that patients have been actively discouraged from even applying – with a mere 84 lodging applications.

‘The current approach by the Berejiklian government is to give the impression that they support access to medicinal cannabis, but then on the other hand to thwart the applications. This is completely against the spirit of the good work of the former Premier Mike Baird,’ he said.

In the period 1 August 2016 to 31 December 2017, NSW Health says it received just 84 applications for authority to prescribe and supply cannabis-based products (including nabiximols, dronabinol, and nabilone) for the treatment of individual patients.

‘The Berejiklian government needs a shake-up. I have received dozens of inquiries and requests about medicinal cannabis. I do not believe that only 84 patients have come forward,’ Mr Secord said.

‘The government must remove the obstacles and provide access for terminally ill patients. The community’s views are clear and they want to see medicinal cannabis available to the terminally ill,’ he said.

‘It is heart-breaking for family members to see their loved ones suffering when access to medicinal cannabis can relieve a tiny fraction of their pain,’

New legislation

Last Thursday (February 22), Mr Searle introduced the legislation – the Medicinal Cannabis (Compassionate Access) Bill 2018 – into the NSW Parliament to legalise medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill and people with serious illness. Debate will resume in early March.

Labor’s legislation, first introduced in February 2017, aims to provide ‘a safe and lawful way for sufferers to access medicinal cannabis’.

It would require patients to receive a photo ID and medical certification from NSW Health in order to possess medicinal cannabis. These amounts can be adjusted by regulation, according to the medical treatment needed.


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  1. It will be good if this can be legalised properly so that people can get access to medicinal cannabis but the government has to also look to decriminalising the law that stops drivers who have a legal right to use it. It has been proven that the medicinal cannabis does not inhibit drivers. So lets get laws working in sync.

  2. They may be working out who will make the tincture and provide it. Instead of employing the experience d people who already know how to do it they are probably wanting the drug companies to control it and get the profits they’ll probably put it up to a high price and get profit to make up for all the other drugs that are currently being used which will no longer be used the poor old drug companies will want compensation there’s no way they would be allowing this to go through jeopardising their profits they are the ones you are holding it up they have the government arm twisted up their back behind their back until they are guaranteed that they can get the money

    • I mean…. “they” not you…they…the drug companies… are the ones holding it up. Theres lots of deals being done behind closed doors. The frustrated lobbyists are saying it’s a no brainer and why is it taking so long…well they may be altruistic and caring…but since when did drug companies care about the masses?
      To be fair…when a new mechanism is set up…it always takes a long time for bureaucratic channels to be established and positions to be advertised and filled. Originally the argument put forward was the govt can’t provide a medicine to the public that has not completed the normal trials to assess side effects in the long term in proper blind control studies. Anecdotal evidence..which is glaringly obvious that its a miracle working tincture.. is not acceptable in the scientific world. Which is a good thing generally. However surely they could offer a patient to sign a waiver and call it..as they have been…sign up for “trials” which means the subjects of the trial are monitored over the next 10 to 20 or more years for long term effects and recorded. And hurry up the process. They are talking about the tincture are they? As medicinal cannabis usually refers to smoking of it as in the US. Over there they are rethinking and reining in this practise as every man and their dog are lining up for so called stress and depression and all the doctors know this provision intended for the suffering patients has been rorted and overused and has become a joke.

  3. Totally agree with you Terri, but also what about affordability? the price for pharma drugs such as nabiximols, dronabinol, and nabilone are way more expensive than the majority of sick people can afford.
    Same goes for anything with the word cannabis in it.
    Remember they’re sick, so working and earning $ is a problem.
    This “regulated” form of cannabis the various governments are offering is more expensive than the black market variety.
    The black market variety, has an excuse for being overly priced, they risk imprisonment for their illegal efforts.
    What excuse does the Government have?
    Is the governments medical cannabis scheme just for the wealthy elite and not for those other Australians who are unnecessarily suffering due to cost/ affordability?
    I’d like to say that’s UN-AUSTRALIAN, but that’s bullshit! it’s criminal.
    So tell me who are the real criminals here?

  4. It all looks promising on the surface, and I hope that the compassionate Bill passes. It will lead the way for other States and Territories. But the cynical and fed up side of me says it’s another trap. Patients will be left behind once again. I hope I’m wrong. Prove me wrong. Please.

  5. I’m about to fill my second prescription for Sativex Oromucosal Spray. The cost is $745 for just over one month.
    I’m on disability, my husband is my carer. We’re having to use our redraw on our home loan. The financial stress, also with our private health now going up to $438 a month, is unsustainable… Bureaucracy – 1 / Me – 0.


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