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Queensland does not have an amnesty for medicinal cannabis

Other states in Australia have an amnesty approach for people who are terminally ill. This gives police the discretion not to prosecute someone found in possession of cannabis if they are using it for medical reasons. This is a police discretionary power, not a full amnesty.

This approach is not supported by the Queensland Government.

Using untested medicinal cannabis products

Some families have been giving their children medicinal cannabis from the illicit market because there is no legal source. Many of these parents are in a situation where standard treatment for their child's condition has not been successful or may cause significant side effects.

These families access information on the Internet and online forums that suggest the use of medicinal cannabis may be helpful for their child's condition, however much of this information is anecdotal and not scientifically verified.

These children are suffering debilitating illnesses and the parents are desperate to help their children. This unfortunately means they may be sourcing various illicit, untested products of unknown quality and efficacy. A few of these parents are satisfied with the illicit product they are using and do not wish to change to another product that may be different to the current illicit product or cost more. These parents see an amnesty as a way to continue their current treatment.

By changing the law to enable access to a legal source of medicinal cannabis, the Queensland Government is supporting parents to ensure that their child has the safest and best possible treatment available.

Amnesty is not a solution

Some parents are requesting an amnesty from prosecution to give their children illicit medicinal cannabis. The issue is that an amnesty would not provide a legal source of pharmaceutical-grade medicinal cannabis for these families.

Illegal products are not overseen by a treating medical officer and they remain outside of the treatment plan for these children. Using recreational or unregulated medicinal cannabis doesn’t guarantee that these products are safe and effective for patients to use.

By providing a legal way for doctors to prescribe approved products, the Queensland Government is looking after the safety of patients and families.

In Queensland, all patients receiving medicinal cannabis treatment may only use a lawfully-obtained product. This is preferable to an amnesty scheme because:

  • it provides access without supporting the illegal or black market cannabis industry
  • treatment is prescribed and monitored by a doctor, rather than encouraging the patient to self-medicate
  • the prescribed product used will be of known consistency and quality.

Growing your own medicinal cannabis remains illegal

The community has a right to expect that any medicine prescribed to them by a doctor is as safe as it possibly can be, when used as recommended. That’s why we put controls around the approval and use of any medicine.

Home-grown cannabis products have unknown concentrations of active ingredients and contain potentially harmful contaminants. These home-grown products are easily diverted into the illicit drug market. Medicinal cannabis products need to be consistent, contaminant-free and high-quality, so doctors can make safe prescribing and dosage decisions.

All medicinal cannabis needs to be accounted for under Australia’s commitment to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 and other international conventions.

Medicinal products must be safe and reliable

Current and proposed Commonwealth and State regulations are designed to ensure the supply of medicinal cannabis is safe, and to protect and help patients.

Doctors must have confidence that any substance they prescribe to help treat a patient is safe. Doctors and their patients need to know that any medical product used for treatment has a predictable and reliable effect. Users of medicinal cannabis products deserve the same certainty.

Accessing a legal product

Medicinal cannabis use is only lawful when the cultivation, manufacture, prescribing and supply complies with all applicable Commonwealth and state or territory laws. Over time, the medicinal cannabis supply will be easier to access, removing the need for a compassionate use scheme.

The cost of legal products is an issue for many of these families and that the reason why the compassionate access scheme (CAS) was begun. This trial enables access to free standardised medicinal cannabis product.

Participants are given Epidiolex® from GW Pharmaceuticals as part of their treatment plan under a medically supervised trial at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH)

Future Australian products

Once Australia has its own medicinal cannabis products that meet the safety and production standards set by the Commonwealth Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Queensland Government can approve these goods for use in Queensland patients.

More information

Questions and answers about accessing medicinal cannabis (PDF 74 kB)

Last updated: 21 March 2017