The NSW Opposition is keeping the pressure on the Berejiklian Government to remove obstacles blocking access to legalised medicinal cannabis.
Doctors and patients have repeatedly complained about long processing times and repeated applications. In response, federal health minister Greg Hunt last week that the state and federal governments had ‘taken a machete’ to red tape in order to provide ‘direct and immediate access’ to medicinal cannabis.
On Friday, the state government confirmed that only 73 NSW patients had been approved for cannabis-based products, not including individuals on clinical trials.)
NSW Labor leader in the Upper House, Adam Searle, and shadow health minister Walt Secord have called on the government to ‘expedite the process and assist those suffering from terminal illnesses’.
Their comments come as debate resumes this month in state parliament on Labor’s Medicinal Cannabis (Compassionate Access) Bill 2018 into the NSW – to legalise medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill and people with serious illness.
It also follows health minister Hunt’s announcement that instead of both the Commonwealth and NSW Health overseeing approvals, NSW will rely on a single clinical assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Mr Hunt said current regulations mean the approval process through the states and the TGA can take months.
But he said that now, instead of both the Commonwealth and NSW Health overseeing the approvals, NSW will rely on a single clinical assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Mr Hunt said the changes would come into effect in the coming weeks.
Mr Searle and Mr Secord say that while the government ‘is starting to begin to realise that there are significant obstacles to obtaining medicinal cannabis in NSW, there is still more work to be done to alleviate the pain and suffering of the terminally ill and those with serious illnesses’.
Medicinal cannabis campaigners have exposed and highlighted the lengthy delays and barriers to securing access to medicinal cannabis (see previous story at https://www.echo.net.au/2018/02/medicinal-cannabis-access-nsw-thwarted/).
Mr Searle said in stark contrast to NSW, where medical cannabis has been legal since early last year, there were tens of thousands of patients in Canada, Germany and Israel getting lawful access to medicinal cannabis.
- In Canada, Health Canada reported that there were 235,621 registered users – as of September 2017.
- In Israel, there are 26,000 registered medicinal cannabis users and its total population is almost the same as NSW.
- In Germany, there are 30,000 patients registered with public and private health insurers.
‘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,’ Mr Searle said.
‘This is completely against the spirit of the good work of the former premier Mike Baird.
(As early as July 2014, the then-premier Mike Baird indicated that he supported medicinal cannabis for terminally ill patients.)
‘A future Labor government will oversee a more compassionate access scheme for terminal patients and others with serious medical conditions to use medicinal cannabis.
‘Labor’s legislation, first introduced in February 2017, provides 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.
‘The Berejiklian Government is starting to fix the mess it has made of medicinal cannabis. That is a start, but they need to get on board and support more effective measures that deliver real relief to those who are suffering today.
‘NSW Labor has put forward a sensible and balanced plan that does this.
‘In the spirit of the cross-party inquiry that made unanimous recommendations in 2013, I again invite the Berejiklian Government to support State Labor’s legislation,’ Mr Searle said.
Mr secord said the government ‘needs a shake-up: I have received dozens of inquiries and requests about medicinal cannabis’.
‘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.’