10 Feb 2016

Legal cannabis cultivation on cards in Australia

10:30 am on 10 February 2016

The cultivation of cannabis for medical or scientific purposes may become legal in Australia with legistlation to be introduced by the Federal Government today.

The establishment of a national cannabis cultivation scheme aims to pave the way for patients with painful and chronic conditions to access medicinal cannabis.

The proposed amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 would allow for cultivation through a national licensing and permit scheme.

Cannabis plants in Uruguay on 15 December 2014.

Photo: AFP

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Government had briefed Labor and the Greens and was optimistic about receiving their support for the move.

"We know the Greens are supportive," Ms Ley said.

"In fact, I've had support across the chambers and around the country and I really believe this is bipartisan."

She hoped the legislation would pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate this sitting of Parliament.

Last year the Greens criticised the Government for not acting sooner on a cultivation scheme.

But Ms Ley said it was a complicated issue.

"This is very complex legislation given that it brings together so many different strands of so much at state and territory level," she said.

"We needed to make sure that we consulted with law enforcement, that we protect the integrity of the system and those who use it, and that we enabled the states to do what many of them are standing by ready to go ahead with."

Ms Ley said the Government had worked closely with the states and territories in developing the legislation.

She said the legislation did not relate to the decriminalisation of cannabis for general cultivation or recreational use.

"If states wish to decriminalise cannabis, then that's entirely a matter for them," Ms Ley said.

"This product is not one that you smoke, it's not something that might be out there illegally.

The new legislation follows a move to allow a small number of children with drug-resistant epilepsy to access a new cannabis-based drug in New South Wales.

The pharmaceutical drug, Epidolex, is still in a trial phase and has not yet received full approval from authorities, but the Government has now set the date of March for a compassionate access scheme to begin.

- ABC

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