Pubdate: Sun, 11 Oct 2015
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 The Age Company Ltd
Author: Adam Gartrell, National Political Correspondent


Prime Minister Should Back Bill Legalising Medical Marijuana to 
Ensure It Passes, the Greens Say.

Richard Di Natale is forging ahead with his bid to legalise medical 
marijuana and warns the Turnbull government would be foolish to stand 
in the way.

The Greens leader will ask the Senate to vote on his bill 
co-sponsored by Liberal, Labor and crossbench senators  next month 
and he's calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to get on board 
to ensure its success.

Senator Di Natale will personally press Mr Turnbull for his support 
when the pair meet in Canberra this week.

"I think there's a groundswell of support for it now and the 
government would have to be particularly foolish to stand in the way 
of getting this reform through," Senator Di Natale told Fairfax Media.

His challenge comes just days after Victoria announced it wants to 
legalise marijuana cultivation for the treatment of serious 
conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS. Senator Di 
Natale says Victoria cannot proceed with its plan without 
Commonwealth legislation.

His bill would set up a new medical marijuana regulator to oversee 
the production, distribution and use of the drug. A Senate committee 
strongly backed the bill in August, despite concerns from the Health 
Department and the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

But the government is yet to say whether it will support the bill.

Sources say Health Minister Sussan Ley is reluctant to set up a new 
regulator and it's understood the TGA is lobbying hard against the 
proposal. The TGA wants to administer medical marijuana itself, 
despite concerns it's ill-equipped to deal with herbal medicines.

Ms Ley says the government is "incredibly sympathetic" towards 
Australians suffering from chronic pain and illness, and is working 
with the states to find a pathway to medicinal cannabis access.

"We also strongly support evidence-based medicine and ensuring new 
treatments are clinically trialled and proven before being approved 
for public use," she said. "The Senate committee report into this 
bill recommends significant structural amendments and this is 
something I will consider closely and continue to discuss with my 
parliamentary colleagues."

But Senator Di Natale says the legislation requires only minor 
technical changes and will soon be ready to go.

He fears Ms Ley is planning to opt for a new phase of clinical 
trials, effectively delaying full legalisation.

"There is overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of medicinal 
cannabis for a number of conditions and it should be made available 
for those conditions immediately," he said. "Simply adopting more 
clinical trials has the potential to delay any real change for up to 
five years."

Recent surveys have found more than two-thirds of Australians back 
the use of medical marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom