Canberra could be producing its first legal cannabis plants within months after the ACT government praised the federal government for filling the missing link in providing medicinal cannabis.
Greens minister Shane Rattenbury said he would introduce legislation to establish an ACT scheme for the cultivation and supply of medicinal cannabis after federal Health Minister Sussan Ley announced on Friday she was finalising changes to the Narcotics Drugs Act.
Ms Ley said the government's planned changes would allow the Department of Health to licence growers under a new scheme, with obligations and legal requirements for states and territories.
Mr Rattenbury, whose draft legislation led to an Assembly review of the issue released this year, said it was a significant move forward and highlighted how fast community opinions had changed on the issue.
"Federal laws have always prevented the ACT from setting up a formal model for cultivation and supply of medicinal cannabis," he said.
"While it would be preferable that a federal agency managed the supply of medicinal cannabis so that all Australians could access it if needed, the announced changes should at least remove barriers to a local scheme.
"I would hope that my Assembly colleagues would support a model that will give suffering Canberrans access to this potentially life-changing treatment."
He said the ACT should also look quickly at options to set up up a medicinal cannabis cultivation industry.
An ACT government spokesman said the federal green light to allow for the cultivation was a long-term sticking point.
"In light of this announcement the ACT will now be considering its next steps, in relation to already proposed legislation and any other related issues," he said.
Mr Rattenbury said his model would be broadly similar to one put forward by the Victorian Labor government. He said the issue of supply had been the greatest weakness highlighted by the committee report, which recommended no action this year.
"We need to do it as soon as possible, there are people right now who would benefit immediately from this scheme," he said.