Australia has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, and marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug there.
Reportedly one-third of Australians above the age of 22 (roughly 5.8 million people) have tried cannabis, with upwards of 1 million people using it in the past year.
When it comes to regular cannabis use, there are three-quarter of a million Australians who report using marijuana weekly, and about 300,000 report smoking or ingesting cannabis on a daily basis.
While recreational cannabis use remains illegal in Australia, the country has opted not to pursue very punitive law enforcement measures, choosing instead to support harm-reduction and treatment frameworks.
Within recent years, Australian politicians from both majority parties increasingly put their support behind legalizing medical cannabis.
On Wednesday, the Australian government passed a measure amending the Narcotic Drugs Act.
The amendments will permit cannabis to be cultivated and used for medical and scientific purposes for the first time in Australia.
“This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals,” Minister for Health Sussan Ley said in a statement.
The measure legalizing medical marijuana in Australia was passed exactly one year after the death of Daniel Haslam, a victim of colon cancer who treated his pain and nausea with medical cannabis.
Daniel’s mother, Lucy Haslam, was a vocal proponent of legalizing medical marijuana. She started the cannabis advocacy group called United in Compassion, which petitioned Australian politicians to legalize cannabis for medical use.
Australian Sen. Richard Di Natale referenced Haslam’s story in a session of Parliament on Wednesday.
“It is incredibly fitting that today we are passing this bill which is one step towards making medicinal cannabis accessible to people like Dan,” Di Natale said.
Other patients in Australia lauded the government for Wednesday’s milestone, while cancer survivors expressed disappointment that medical cannabis wasn’t legalized sooner.
“As a cancer survivor I could’ve used some medicinal marijuana at times to relieve the pain, anxiety, hopelessness feelings, sadness, worry, insomnia, etc,” Australian resident Narelle Reimers wrote on her facebook page.
While Australia legalized medical cannabis on Wednesday, it will still take some time for regulations to be put in place and licenses to be granted. Prospective patients will also have to wait for a clearer answer on when the plants themselves will be ready.
(Photo Credit: id)