Almost seven months on from a national agreement to streamline access to medical cannabis products, Tasmania remains the only state in Australia unable to utilise an online application system.
At April’s COAG health council meeting, Health Minister Michael Ferguson agreed to collaborate with other states and the Commonwealth to develop a single, nationally consistent application pathway for people to access unregistered medical cannabis products.
As of July 30, an online system has allowed Special Access Scheme applications to be made by health practitioners, to Commonwealth and relevant state departments simultaneously.
Prior to this, prescribers of unapproved medicinal cannabis products needed to complete and separately submit paper forms to the Therapeudic Goods Administration and their relevant state health department.
However, to date Tasmania and the ACT remain the only two governments unable to use the online system.
In a statement, Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the government was “continuing to work with federal counterparts to ensure a more efficient process while maintaining patient safety”.
However, Greens health spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said Mr Ferguson was continuing to stall on allowing Tasmanians to access the “safe and much quicker” federal TGA process.
“The minister has not caught up with the rest of the country in abolishing the onerous and unnecessary second application to the Department of Health Services,” she said.
“Minister Ferguson perpetuates the myth that not enough evidence exists to allow safe and effective medicinal cannabis for patients to use, even when the certifying Australian government body provides that expertise.”
Shadow Attorney-General Ella Haddad said many “desperate” Tasmanians were being left with no choice but to treat family members and friends illegally.
“For more than four years Michael Ferguson’s scheme has tied Tasmanians up in red tape, rather than help them seek treatment,” she said.
“Michael Ferguson must put aside his ideology and start helping Tasmanian families access medicinal cannabis.”
The medicinal use and supply of cannabis and cannabinoids was decriminalised in Australia in 2016.
Currently, Tasmania’s Controlled Access Scheme allows relevant medical specialists to prescribe unregistered cannabis products, in circumstances where conventional treatments have been unsuccessful.
To date, seven patients have been granted access to cannabis products through the scheme since it was introduced in September last year.
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