Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury could move to introduce legislation creating a medical marijuana scheme for the ACT within a year, despite Labor and Liberal politicians moving to block the plans in a committee report.
The report tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning recommends the ACT government work with other state and territories on a national medical cannabis scheme and called on the federal government to improve access to synthetic cannabis drugs.
Draft legislation put forward by Mr Rattenbury would have allowed Canberrans with terminal and chronic illnesses to grow marijuana and use the drug to alleviate pain and symptoms. Under the proposal raised in July 2014, patients would have had to apply to the ACT Chief Health Officer for approval to possess and use cannabis.
Approval could have been given to patients in three categories: those with a terminal illness with a prognosis of death within a year; serious illnesses or conditions such as cancer, AIDS or HIV, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or epilepsy; or those with chronic or debilitating conditions.
The committee recommended the Assembly reject Mr Rattenbury's bill and called on the federal government to consider adding synthetic cannabinoids Sativex and Marinol to the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and for changes to laws around further clinical trials of cannabis.
Mr Rattenbury accused the committee, led by Labor backbencher Chris Bourke, of failing to help Canberrans who needed the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis.
He called the report "the worst case scenario" for patients wanting to use cannabis for pain relief and to treat symptoms such as nausea and spasticity.
"The Liberal Party and the Labor Party have failed to take the courageous step that we need here, to assist people who need to be allowed to have access to medical cannabis," he said.
"Always this issue comes down to more delay, more obfuscation. The ACT should immediately move to create a simple register, like they've done in New South Wales, where people can register as using cannabis for medical purposes."
Mr Rattenbury said without progress on a cross-party bill in the Federal Parliament, he would be forced to introduce his own legislation by mid-2016. The move would force the ACT government to vote against the plan.
The committee received more than 30 submissions from the public, experts and health organisations.
Among concerns identified were barriers to medical research because of the legal status of cannabis, health risks from crude cannabis including from smoking and questions of supply of the drug.
The report said supply chains from self-grown plants, cannabis clubs and collectives would not meet requirements of the 1961 international convention on drugs.
It endorsed as a suitable framework a national medical cannabis scheme set to be considered by the Federal Parliament. The Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee this week recommended the Greens bill to set up a regulator of medical cannabis be passed.
The regulator would be "responsible for formulating rules for licensing the production, manufacture, supply, use, experimental use and import and export of medicinal cannabis".
Under existing ACT law, it is illegal to administer cannabis to another person, possess any quantity of the drug, cultivate any quantity of it or sell or supply it to another person.
Health Minister Simon Corbell said the government was yet to decide on its response to the committee report.
Committee chairman and Labor backbencher Chris Bourke said the draft bill was "naive and ill-considered."
He dismissed criticism from Mr Rattenbury that the major parties had again failed to act on the controversial drug and had abandoned sufferers.
"What we are saying is that the best solution is a federal solution. A Commonwealth solution that encompassess all of the states and territories, including the ACT, to deliver a scheme that should be managed by doctors," Dr Bourke said.
He said any scheme needed appropriate controls on dosage, supply and drug quality.