15 March 2018
  • Controlled Substances Act amendment would provide patients and/or nominated carers with a legal defence for its use, supply and/or possession;
  • General Practitioners would be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis in SA after a comprehensive, fast-tracked training process.

SA-BEST will seek to amend the Controlled Substances Act (SA) 1984 to introduce a defence for the use, supply and/or possession of a defined amount of medicinal cannabis, in order to remedy what many in the community see as a legal anomaly.

SA-BEST Leader, Nick Xenophon, said the amendment would also enable GPs to prescribe cannabis to patients diagnosed as suffering from a terminal illness or serious medical condition.

"The amendment would provide a defence from prosecution for the use, supply and/or possession of up to 30 grams of dry cannabis and/or equivalent amounts of other cannabis products for medical purposes," Nick said.

"It would also extend to equipment for the administration of cannabis by a person diagnosed with a terminal illness or serious medical condition, or by that person's nominated carer."

A nominated carer is a person prescribed by Regulations to be a carer for the purposes of the Act.

Under the other conditions of this defence:

  1. The defence would be restricted to persons that have either first registered as a medicinal cannabis user or as a nominated carer. Eligibility to be registered would be contingent upon certification by a medical practitioner diagnosing a terminal illness or serious medical condition;
  2. The defence would only apply where the use of cannabis does not occur in a public place;
  3. A review of the amendment will be commenced within one year of the date of commencement of the amending legislation with further reviews to be conducted annually;
  4. A terminal illness is defined as an illness or condition that is likely to result in death within a period to be prescribed by Regulations;
  5. A serious medical condition will be defined to be a medical condition that is likely to result, and to continue to result, in a significant reduction in the affected person's quality of life, whether that is from the symptoms of the illness or condition or from its treatment.

Nick said the current system was "excessively cumbersome".
"In November 2016, the Turnbull Liberal government passed legislation that was supposed to establish a legal framework to allow for cultivation and manufacture of cannabis for medicinal purposes," he said.

"In SA, very few cannabis-related licences have been issued and there is still no legal domestic product available in South Australia. This means that very few people have been successful in acquiring medicinal cannabis other than through the 'black market'."

An estimated 100,000 Australians are currently buying medicinal cannabis from the 'black market' which can result in exorbitant prices, inconsistent quality, criminal prosecution, and the funding of illegal operations.

"SA Health states on its website that 'patients in South Australia can access medicinal cannabis medicines as a result of federal legislative changes which came into effect in November 2016'," Nick said.

"However, in SA a patient must get a prescription from a specialist medical practitioner, which makes it a cumbersome, difficult, costly and time-consuming process."

"We believe that general practitioners should be allowed to prescribe cannabis and suggest that a comprehensive training program be fast tracked facilitate this."

"We also believe that a system needs to be established so that scripts can be filled quickly at a reasonable cost and protect patients and carers from the threat of arrest and criminal prosecution."

The proposed legislation would allow possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis leaf, 7 grams of full extract cannabis oil, 250 mls of infused oil, and/or 2.5 grams of cannabis resin by a registered medicinal cannabis user or his/her nominated carer.

It would also allow for registered growers to participate in a lawful supply chain of medicinal cannabis with the terms flexible enough to allow for small scale production, as well as larger scale manufacturing. A method of licensing and regulating the manufacture and dispensing of cannabis product would be established.

"In the short term, controlled quality cannabis may need to be imported but, within five years, local production could become an annual $5 billion export industry for SA," Nick said.

"The benefits are enormous in so many ways and SA-BEST is the only party in this election that is capable of making them happen within the next four years."

Nick said the SA-BEST policy was largely formulated by SA-BEST's Elizabeth candidate, Phil Gallasch, who has previously had extensive discussions with Jenny Hallam, currently facing prosecution for allegedly manufacturing and supplying medicinal cannabis.

Phil has also met with sufferers of terminal illnesses, such as Ken Cole (former premiership coach of Adelaide 36ers), who have benefited from medicinal cannabis.

Ken said he supported SA-BEST's policy and believed terminally ill patients would benefit from using medicinal cannabis, as he did.

"They told me I had two years to live and I am still here seven years later. I am proof that it does benefit," Ken said.

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