Australia’s ruling government has refused to back a Senate-passed bill which would improve access to imported medical marijuana for those with terminal illnesses.
The bill, which was created by Australia’s Green Party, passed in the Senate last Thursday with cross-party support. For the bill to become law, however, it would need to pass the House of Representatives where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal Party hold the majority.
Currently, doctors who are prescribing medical cannabis must apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for permission to treat a terminally ill patient with the medicine. This extra step has caused frustration for advocates who state that the added stipulation slows down the process.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt stated that removing the permission aspect of the process deletes necessary precautions in place.
“The approach of the Greens and Labor is to remove safeguards with oversight of the Therapeutic Goods Administration to ensure patient safety,” said Hunt. “The Turnbull government stands by its commitment to provide access to medical cannabis in a safe and regulated way.”
The Health Minister added that the feds in Australia have already allowed greater access by facilitating importation and creating a domestic cultivation industry.
Green Party leader Richard Di Natale was not pleased by the move. “It is simple cruelty from this government,” Natale said to the Senate. “These patients are dying and their doctors believe medical cannabis may alleviate their suffering. [The Liberal Government is] responsible for terrible unnecessary suffering and a very likely number of premature deaths.”
Australia legalized medical cannabis in October 2015 for conditions that include severe spasms related to multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, severe epilepsy, and palliative care (loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and pain).