Budding marijuana growers can now apply to legally cultivate and manufacture medicinal cannabis in Australia.
The Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016 – which came into effect on Sunday – allows people to apply for a licence to grow the crop, for purely medicinal purposes.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said the changes would provide patients a reliable and legal source of cannabis from doctors.
“Until now, it has been difficult for patients to access medicinal cannabis products from overseas sources,” Ms Ley said in a statement on Sunday.
“These new laws change that situation by providing for a domestic supply of medicinal cannabis products that are not readily available for import.”
However, the legality of who can use medicinal cannabis will differ from state to state with each forming its own legislation.
States will also have to consider the law (Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961) set in place by the United Nations on how medicinal cannabis should be approached.
How does it work for each state
In Queensland, from March 2017, it will be legal for specialists to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients suffering from illnesses including MS, epilepsy, cancer and HIV/AIDS.
A doctor will need to show evidence that the plant could help the patient for it to be approved, but will have no restrictions in terms of age.
For New South Wales, regulation changes in August this year allowed doctors to legally prescribe patients medical cannabis. The drug is available for adults with life-threatening illnesses.
In Victoria, children with epilepsy will be able to access the substance in early 2017.
Tasmania will allow patients to access unregistered medical marijuana under its Controlled Access Scheme, which is to come into practice next year.
In Western Australia, recently passed changes to its legislation will allow doctors to prescribe the drug under strict conditions as of Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the ACT government is developing legislation to include education for doctors and is expected to come into effect next year.
The plant will still be illegal to use or grow for recreational purposes.
Long wait for many reliant on medicinal cannabis
Ben Oakley, from Wollongong, is among those who will be waiting a while to gain access to medicinal marijuana legally.
The 21-year-old has a rare condition called stiff person’s syndrome, and has been using cannabis oil purchased on the black market to treat his chronic and debilitating symptoms.
“There are times where I’ve got so much tightness and tension in my back that it’s just excruciatingly painful,” he told ABC.
“And the pharmaceutical medications don’t always help to relieve that. But medicinal cannabis does. It relieves a lot of the pain and it allows me to continue moving on.”
Mr Oakley explained that despite people often assuming he was sitting around “smoking and getting high”, the way the oil worked he had never experienced the typical effects of recreational marijuana.
I’ve never been high, never had the munchies. All it’s given me is positive beneficial relief and that’s something that people still to this day don’t understand.
Medicinal marijuana user Ben Oakley
Mr Oakley said he sourced his medicinal cannabis from interstate, but that it was difficult as he had to acquire it through the black market.
“But the person who has been supplying me is an angel, they’ve been supplying over 200 people nationwide with medicinal cannabis free, all off her own back,” he said.
– with AAP, ABC