Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 The Age Company Ltd
Author: Richard Willingham


Secret government-run drug labs have started growing medicinal 
cannabis in Victoria to provide new treatment for nearly 500 children.

And those that cannot afford newly legal medicinal cannabis will be 
given nearly $ 12 million in taxpayer-funded assistance to buy the 
drug, Premier Daniel Andrews says.

Last week the government passed laws for medicinal cannabis but 
people seeking the treatment  it will require a prescription - will 
have to wait until next year when the government-controlled product 
becomes available.

The government warned that people getting treatments from other 
sources was illegal and would be a matter for the police.

Medicinal cannabis will initially only be available to an estimated 
470 children who are suffering various conditions, including severe epilepsy.

Mr Andrews on Tuesday announced that next Wednesday's state budget 
would include $ 28.5 million to set up the office of Medicinal 
Cannabis and an independent medical advisory committee.

The government said treatment costs were not known yet but Mr Andrews 
indicated that he would talk to the Commonwealth about getting 
medicinal cannabis on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Previous 
reports have estimated the treatment would cost $ 50-$ 58 a month 
from selected pharmacists. $ 11.8 million of next week's budget will 
go to a hardship fund for families that cannot afford the new 
medicinal treatment. "Anyone who faces a sick child or sick family 
member is going to have a really profound impact on how much money 
you've got and this hardship fund is all about trying to deal with 
that. We don't want cost to be a barrier," Mr Andrews said.

Trials over the coming months will see experts refine and test plants 
at an indoor " very secure" facility to get the best product for the 
first cohort of child patients early next year.

The government will cultivate the cannabis which will then be 
manufactured at a public hospital, before the industry is expanded 
for other patient groups.

Other adult patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, some forms of 
cancer and HIV/AIDS, will be given access later stage.

Once set up people will only be able to buy the treatment from 
government sanctioned suppliers.

" We are absolutely on track to be providing a safe reliable secure 
and legal product," Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said.

By next year Victoria will be well advanced in creating a new 
commercial industry, and other states have expressed interest in what 
Victoria is doing, including supply.

" There is certainly is potential for a very significant industry out 
of this, [ but] the primary focus is of course care," Mr Andrews said.
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