THE medicinal cannabis pantry may soon be fully-stocked for patients, but easy access is still the big question for campaigners.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a slew of changes to improve the availability of medicinal cannabis, with patients still experiencing difficulty accessing products, nearly one year since legislation was passed.
With no Australian suppliers, patients have been forced to navigate a tricky importation process, with only a small number of doctors authorised to prescribe across the nation.
In a statement, the minister said the government had authorised the “controlled importation” of approved medicinal cannabis products to build an interim supply in the country, “until domestic production meets local needs”.
“At present, doctors approved to supply medicinal cannabis products must import the product as local production is only starting to be developed following the passage of legislation to allow domestic production late last year,” the statement said.
“It is expected that within eight weeks, possibly sooner, Australia will have a store of imported medicinal cannabis products so that approved patients can have greater confidence in the supply arrangements for their doctors.”
The rescheduling of cannabis to a category 8 drug meant patients were faced with a number of barriers trying to find products that could be legally imported, which she said left people stuck with the black market.
But announcement was cautiously welcomed by the Tamworth campaigner.
“It is a good thing, but we will just have to wait and see,” Mrs Haslam said.
“It’s like stocking the pantry, but we just have to make sure that pantry doesn’t have a lock on it for patients.”
“I’m very grateful for the change, but it should happened a year ago.”
Mrs Haslam said the government boosting the country’s supply would “solve part of the problem”.
“You still have to find a doctor,” she said.
Mrs Haslam told The Leader there are only 23 authorised prescribers in the country, mostly involved in clinical trials.
The Tamworth advocate also met with the newly-minted NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, on Wednesday to discuss the difficulties facing patients.