ACT News

Canberra should be next for medical marijuana, says Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury

Victoria's new landmark medical marijuana laws could help clear the way for a similar scheme to be introduced in Canberra, Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury said on Tuesday. 

Frustrated by Labor and Liberal politicians' moves to block his plans for a territory scheme to legalise medical cannabis for terminal and chronic illnesses in August, Mr Rattenbury said the Victorian model was a promising new development and should prompt more action for long-term sufferers in the community. 

Shane Rattenbury says the ACT should move to introduce legal medical cannabis.
Shane Rattenbury says the ACT should move to introduce legal medical cannabis. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The state looks set to become the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise marijuana cultivation for the treatment of serious medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain.

The plans come after the release of a Victorian Law Reform Commission report but still need approval from the Turnbull government, which is a signatory to international rules covering the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis.

After a Legislative Assembly committee report recommended the ACT not move forward with a similar scheme this year, Mr Rattenbury said he could still push a private members' bill if there was no action by mid-2016. Federal parliamentarians are also considering a medical cannabis bill.

Victorians will have access to a range of cannabis products at pharmacies including oils, tinctures, capsules, sprays and vaporisable liquids. Patients need authorisation from a specialist doctor and won't have access to smokable forms of marijuana. 

The state government will begin a cultivation trial at a state research facility and an independent medical advisory committee will be established to give advice about expanding patient eligibility.

Mr Rattenbury had proposed the ACT lead the nation on growing crops for medical cannabis, a potential new source of jobs for Canberra. 

"The Victorian model looks very promising and I think this is actually quite an exciting development," he said. 

"It demonstrates that a workable model is possible and that was always the discussion I wanted to have here in the ACT," he said. 

Mr Rattenbury met Victoria's specialist commissioner Ian Freckelton, who said it was not appropriate for the state to wait until a clinical trial being led by NSW and backed by the federal government was completed.

"The fact Victoria is now doing this should unblock the system and other states will inevitably follow," Mr Rattenbury said.

"I think my Assembly colleagues here can take confidence in the fact that a big state like Victoria is doing it and there are ways to solve the concerns some people have." 

He called on Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to stand in the way of community views.

"This needs all the support it can get," Mr Rattenbury said. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described Tuesday as one of his proudest days in politics. He had pledged to legalise medical marijuana before winning the state's 2014 election. 

"I've seen first-hand how medicinal cannabis can change people's lives. This landmark reform means Victorian families will no longer have to decide between breaking the law and watching their child suffer," Mr Andrews said.