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Useful changes to the government’s medicinal cannabis bill were announced today (29 November 2018), but the Drug Foundation says many patients will be disappointed.

The Drug Foundation has welcomed further changes to the government’s medicinal cannabis scheme, announced today at the second reading on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, but says the changes have not gone far enough to address concerns raised by patients during the select committee process.

“The amendment requiring the Ministry of Health to create the medicinal cannabis scheme within 12 months is a welcome move. It would have been cruel to patients and their families to not have certainty on when this important scheme would be up-and-running,” said Executive Director Ross Bell.

“Other technical changes, including expanding the range of non-psychoative cannabidiol medicines, will give patients and their doctors greater clarity about what products will be available to prescribe. These changes are also useful.

“Sadly, both the Health Select Committee and the government’s Supplementary Order Paper fail to deliver on the overwhelming pleas of patients to expand the legal defence to a wider range of illnesses, and for that legal defence to protect their carers too.

“The defence, which would protect patients until the full scheme is in place, originally only covered patients with a terminal illness and will now be expanded to patients receiving palliative care. But many patients and their advocates want that defence to cover severe and debilitating medical conditions, as well as protect support people and carers who currently supply and administer black market products,” said Mr Bell.

The Drug Foundation continues to support the intent of the government’s bill to allow a domestic medicinal cannabis industry, which arguably will create more accessible and better value medicines than are currently available.

The Drug Foundation is committed to working with the Ministry of Health, medicinal cannabis patients and their advocates to quickly develop a comprehensive and robust medicinal cannabis scheme.

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