Tasmania’s version of the Controlled Access Scheme is very progressive. Compared to other Australian states, our scheme doesn’t place a restriction on the types of conditions for which medicinal cannabis could administered. It appears that’s where the forward-thinking of the scheme ends.
It’s been almost seven months since Tassie agreed to join a streamlined process to access unregistered medical cannabis products. The process would mean one submission for federal and state approvals.
Tasmania is the only state not to have made the step to join this online system. There’s no sign of when we will join.
Having access granted is also an issue. Since the Controlled Access Scheme was introduced in September 2017 only seven patients have been granted access.
The Health Department refuses to release numbers on how many people have requested access, but have been denied. It’s claimed the information could reveal the identity of the patients due to the small number of applications. This is not a comment easily accepted. Particularly given back in April the Health Minister confirmed there were three applications under consideration. While patient confidentiality is important, there are many statistics released consistently relating to waiting times, elective surgery, housing wait lists and child protection cases.
The Examiner’s health reporter Jessica Willard has spent many weeks researching the scheme and the benefits of medicinal cannabis. This will continue to be explored in days to come. One key question is the benefits of medical cannabis. To date, no clinical trials have shown medical cannabis is a cure. This isn’t even the argument of Jeremy Bester and his family, who continue to be denied access. The cannabis product is considered a supplement to help other drugs work. For example in cancer patients, the product can help reduce nausea therefore help the patient retain strength so the traditional and proven treatments have a better chance of success.
Tasmania’s scheme appears to be a double-edged sword – we have greater access, but is that the reason attaining access is harder.