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Children to be first to try medicinal cannabis in Victoria once legalised

Medical marijuana will be turned into medicine in many forms like oils and sprays.

MEDICINAL cannabis will be grown and supplied to patients in Victoria as early as 2017.

Children suffering severe epilepsy will be among the first to be treated using a range of non-smokable marijuana products including oils, sprays and vaporisers.

Legislation will be introduced by the end of the year establishing the Office of Medicinal Cannabis which will oversee research, development and the dispensing of marijuana products.

The move comes after the Victorian Law Reform handed down 42 recommendations on August 31, including how to dispense the drug through pharmacies to patients who have been prescribed treatment by a medical specialist.

The report recommends strictly forbidding people to grow their own cannabis and instead calls for licensed manufacturers similar to the opium poppy industry.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the “landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer”.

Patients must suffer severe epileptic seizures, muscle spasms resulting from multiple sclerosis, severe pain and nausea arising from cancer or HIV/AIDS or chronic pain approved by two specialists.

Patients with other medical conditions may be considered in exceptional circumstances but must be approved by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The government supports 40 of the Commission’s recommendations and will further investigate two recommendations relating to patient eligibility after receiving advice from medical specialists.

VLRC chair Philip Cummins said the state played a key role in controlling the dispensing of cannabis products to “ensure accurate dosages and product purity”.

“The Commission does not recommend a ‘do it yourself’ or ‘grow your own’ scheme,” he said.

“The best way to treat the approved patients with medicinal marijuana is through the medicinal and pharmaceutical system.

“This report is driven by compassion and medical responsibility.”

The scheme will allow a number of products with differing levels of CBD and THC suitable for different patients.

The report indicates the Government scheme will cost substantial amounts but did not investigate a figure.

Specialist Commissioner Ian Freckleton said the new legislation was groundbreaking and would stop desperate patients and their families from being prosecuted by the law for using medical marijuana.

A small scale cultivation trial will be established by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources to test plant varieties and cannabinoid levels of products.

Mr Cummins said Victoria was choosing a more controlled system similar to the Netherlands.

There is no need for federal legislation to cultivate the drug but the Commonwealth must give permission for the scheme to go ahead.

Laws which need regulation change include: the Therapeutic Goods Act, the Narcotic Drugs Act and quarantine and customs laws.

Health minister Jill Hennessy said the move was an important medical step.

“Victoria is leading the way on legalising medicinal cannabis because we know the difference it can make to a patient’s quality of life, and because we know the evidence is growing in support of it as a treatment.”

The law reform commission said the cultivation licences will also be vetted carefully to ensure only fit and proper persons would be allowed a permit minimising the risk of organised crime networks from abusing the system.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy said he supported medical trials and the use of medicinal marijuana in principle.

Greens MP Colleen Hartland said it was imperative for treating children with epilepsy.

“Totally support it. The logical thing is for us to be growing it here and distilling it here so we know the quality.”

Sex Party MP Fiona Patten said she was concerned if the scheme was to specialised many patients could miss out on the benefits.

“In principle I support any legislation that makes marijunana for medicinal purposes to the community but if you make it too restrictive you will see a grey market emerge so I am cautious.”

How it will work:

- Patients are prescribed by a medical specialist

- Pharmacy will dispense

- GP will oversee treatment plan

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