Public Inquiry 2015: Senate Committee Report

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The full Report can be downloaded here. Links to its various Chapters are included within below text.

 

 

In the course of the Public Inquiry into the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014, the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, tasked with investigating the matter, received in excess of 200 Public Submissions and took evidence from over forty witnesses over the course of three days at the tail-end of March 2015.

 

The resulting document, which included the Committee’s Final Recommendations, was a model of diplomacy, reportage, impartiality, comprehensiveness and research.

 

Many of the submissions were quoted directly, all had clearly been meticulously considered. Points raised by the witnesses too had been assimilated and taken into account.

 

Its 98 pages included Appendices [One] and  [Two] relating to various aspects of the Inquiry plus a useful canter through ‘Medicinal cannabis across the globe‘ giving an’overview of currently deployed modes of patient access and supply of medicinal cannabis‘ overseas.

 

In its five chapters it described (in Chapter One) how the the Inquiry had worked then (in Chapter Two) background issues such as some general points about the medicinal uses of cannabis and  its regulation at that time, State and territory initiatives that were also happening even as the Inquiry progressed and regulatory approaches in other countries.

 

Chapter Three and Chapter Four considered the Bill itself including its key provisions, responsibilities of the new, single purpose Regulator it was proposing, how such body might be established and what powers it may have then explored major issues the Inquiry had highlighted and issues about Australia’s then approach to the drug.

 

Wrapping up, in Chapter Five with the Committee’s remarks on the model the Bill was proposing, the Report spoke of ‘significant gaps in our scientific understanding‘ of medicinal cannabis, acknowledging ‘cannabinoid science is a rapidly developing field and has remarkable potential to influence human disease and wellbeing’ but also that while ‘medical experts and researchers voiced differences of opinion over the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis during the course of the inquiry, further research will demonstrate in what circumstances medicinal cannabis is a safe and effective remedy, and where it is ineffective or inappropriate‘. The medical perspective had, it said, been ‘put into context by the personal accounts of witnesses such as Mrs Lucy Haslam and Mrs Joelle Neville’ who had spoken of their own experiences in Sydney and Brisbane during the Public Hearings. The Committee was, it said, ‘particularly persuaded by the personal accounts it heard and is unanimously in support of patient access to products derived from cannabis,’ but with the caveat that ‘for the safety of patients and the protection of medical professionals the committee believes it is important that medicinal cannabis is used to treat identified medical conditions where it has been proven to be safe and effective‘.

 

Its recommendations were as follows – with the final, Recommendation Six, being especially important:

 

Recommendation 1

The committee supports, in principle, the access to products derived from cannabis for use in relation to particular medical conditions where the use of those products has been proven to be safe and effective.

 

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the Bill is amended, if necessary, to establish mechanisms by which scientific evidence about medicinal cannabis products can be assessed to determine their suitability for use in the treatment of particular medical conditions.

 

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the Bill is amended to address issues raised about its interaction with the existing Commonwealth regulatory framework for medicinal products, including the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, the Narcotics Drug Act 1967 and relevant customs legislation.

 

Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that the Bill is amended to ensure that medicinal cannabis products can be made available in Australia consistent with Australia’s international obligations, including under Articles 23 and 28 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961).

 

Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government consult with its state and territory counterparts about the interrelationship of relevant laws to ensure a consistent approach to accessing medicinal cannabis and to facilitate compliance with any such access scheme and Australia’s international obligations.
Recommendation 6

Subject to the preceding recommendations, the committee recommends that the Bill be passed.

 

Once the Report had been published, a jubilant Green Party Leader Richard Di Natale, the Bill’s initial sponsor in the Senate, focused on the recommendation that the Bill be passed into law, noting the Committee had only ‘minor concerns’. These concerns were mainly to do with existing Commonwealth legislation and Australia’s commitment to the UN Single Convention on Drugs, non-compliance with which could jeopardise its lucrative opium poppy trade.

 

They would prove the nails in the coffin of the ‘Regulator’ Bill which was replaced instead by an Amendment to the Narcotic Drugs Act to enable medical cannabis to be grown here – which was at least good for research – but do little to ensure consistency throughout States and Territories where accessing the drug was concerned and, in terms of that matter, cementing a two-tiered bureaucracy (the Federal Government and S&Ts) which would both need to give blessing to patients and doctors alike, as well as to those wishing to create cannabis-based products.