What cannabis legalization means for Australia
After the successful passing of Narcotics Amendment Bill 2016 in both parliament houses last February 24, Australia is now among the few countries in the world that allow marijuana use for medical purposes. This can be considered a major triumph not only for its advocates but also for the entire country.
The first one to benefit from the recent legalization of cannabis in Australia is the health sector. Thanks to this development, marijuana can now be subjected to various clinical trials essential in developing new drugs for various incurable diseases, as well as those that can only be treated through obscenely priced drugs and treatments.
By 2017, children with epilepsy in Victoria will be the first ones to try cannabis treatment in the country. In a recent report by ABC, Jill Hennessy, Victoria’s health minister, said that the new law will soon help improve the lives of people suffering from epilepsy, especially children, who “often don’t make it until adulthood.” It will also help eliminate the dilemma that typically haunts parents, because of children suffering from the disease, are forced to risk their lives by buying from vendors or going to unlicensed clinics that offer cannabis treatment.
“I just think that in this day and age, it’s unfair and unacceptable to ask a parent to make a decision between obeying the law and acting in the best interests of their child,” Hennessy said.
This also means that patients and their families no longer need to travel to other countries where medical marijuana is legal and treatment is cheaper. The crime rate on the illegal purchase of the weed, which is prevalent in Australia, is expected to diminish sharply as patients can soon go straight to local health centers or hospitals to obtain treatment. In turn, police officers can put more focus on cases that deal with other drug-related cases.
However, unlike other countries where selling cannabis products is covered by decriminalization, Australia is yet to see startups focusing on the medical drug. According to the bill, the only ones authorized to cultivate and produce marijuana products are the soon-to-be-founded state/territory agencies that will focus on its cultivation, sale, and distribution.
It means that external or private parties like hospitals, research groups, or even companies will need to undergo a lot of red tape before they can commence any marijuana-focused initiatives. The amendment says that anyone who seeks a license for cultivation must obtain two licenses such as “one that authorizes the cultivation of cannabis for manufacture into medicinal cannabis products and [the one] that authorizes research into the cannabis plant that is to be used for medicinal purposes.” Persons applying for cultivation licenses will be subjected to strict scrutiny, as the government wants to ensure the exclusion of criminal elements that “may be tempted to use the license scheme as cover for illegal activities.”
“The Commonwealth currently has laws to regulate the import, export, and manufacture of cannabinoids and cannabis raw material, but these do not allow the cultivation in Australia of cannabis plants for medicinal purposes,” reads the bill.
This can mean that while companies and interested entities prepare for license application, some health institutions can import cannabis products from countries where export of marijuana for medical purpose is legal. It’s a good opportunity for companies seeking international expansion. A prime example is Med-X, a US-based startup marijuana company that has been gaining immense reputation for its research-based products and its advocacies on changing the public’s negative notion of the weed. The company, with its expertise in quality and state-of-the-art marijuana cultivation, can be a hit in a country like Australia where weed cultivation is still in its embryonic stage.
Nonetheless, above all, the nationwide cannabis legalization will change a lot of things in Australia. This will free patients—including their parents and their families—from the shackles of being limited only to what the Big Pharma and mainstream medicine can give, an idea that can be summarized to inefficient drugs and exorbitant treatments.
Moreover, as explained by health minister Sussan Ley, “[legalization] does not only create a safe, legal, and reliable source of products but will also put medical practitioners at the center of the decision-making process on whether medicinal cannabis is beneficial for the patients.” Surely, this goes with the patients, too, as they can now freely decide if it’s high-time to try the promising weed treatment and abandon the ineffective drugs they’ve been taking for so long.