Australia set for their parliament to pass a bill that would legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.
The bill was introduced to a parliamentary session Wednesday, and it is expected to pass quickly, taking the first step toward allowing healthcare providers to prescribe cannabis to patients with chronic pain and other qualifying ailments.
Other patients and the general public would not be able to receive licenses for medical cannabis.
Australian officials have given themselves until the end of March to decide whether and how to lower the criteria for the use of medical marijuana, opening the door for other patients to treat their symptoms with cannabis.
As a result, Australian manufacturers, researchers and patients on clinical trials have been forced to access global suppliers of legal medicinal marijuana. But costs, limited supply, and export barriers make this challenging.
“Allowing controlled cultivation locally will provide the critical missing piece for a sustainable legal supply of safe medicinal cannabis products for Australian patients in the future,” said Australia’s Health Minister Sussan Ley.
If Australia decides to treat cannabis the same way it treats opioids and opiates, patients dealing with chronic pain could eventually be prescribed the drug.
Companies are eager to get into the cultivation business.
“The market for medicinal cannabis in Australia is substantial. The number of patients that could be targeted could be people with epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, while there is the other spectrum of people with chronic pain,” said Gaelan Bloomfield, manager at MMJ PhytoTech Ltd., Australia’s first listed medicinal marijuana company.