Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016
The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 (PDF, 1.23MB) was passed by Queensland Parliament on 12 October 2016, and commenced on 1 March 2017.
The Act creates a regulatory framework to allow medicinal cannabis products to be prescribed and dispensed to patients in Queensland and prevent unauthorised use of these products. Any cannabis used outside of the regulatory framework is illegal.
The Act balances allowing greater use of medicinal cannabis products, and ensuring medicinal cannabis products are used safely and not diverted for unlawful purposes.
The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulation 2017 (PDF, 593KB) commenced on 1 March 2017. It prescribes matters to support the operation of the Act and includes provisions covering:
- prescribing and dispensing
- standard conditions that apply to approvals
- applications for manufacturing and wholesaling approvals
- record-keeping, prescriptions and storage, packaging and labelling of medicinal cannabis
- requirements for complying with a relevant code, guideline, protocol or standard.
The regulatory framework will be reviewed after 2 years to:
- ensure it is meeting the needs of patients, health service providers and enforcement agencies
- reflect any developments in the evidence base.
Prescribing medicinal cannabis
The Act provides 2 pathways for doctors to be authorised to prescribe medicinal cannabis:
- Patient-class prescribers: specialists who have an "as-of-right authority" to prescribe to groups of patients for a specified condition or symptom with specified medicinal cannabis products
- Single-patient prescribers: specialists or general practitioners can apply for approval to prescribe for a particular patient.
Approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Queensland Health is required before medicinal cannabis can be prescribed by an approved doctor and supplied by an approved pharmacist.
Medicinal cannabis will only be approved when:
- the patient has tried all of the conventional treatments available and these have failed OR
- the conventional treatment causes intolerable side effects
- the doctor provides clinical evidence that a specific type of medicinal cannabis product is effective for the particular condition or symptoms
Monitoring and enforcement
The Act includes monitoring and enforcement controls to ensure medicinal cannabis products are not used illegally. These controls are consistent with other legislation.
The Queensland Government undertook a consultation process with the public, patients, doctors, pharmacists and other key groups in the first half of 2016.
A draft Bill (PDF, 588KB) was then reviewed by the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee and further public comment was sought.
The discussion paper (PDF, 400KB) explained the proposed regulatory framework in the Act:
- regulation of medicinal cannabis, including the relationship between the proposed Queensland regulatory framework and relevant Commonwealth laws
- Australia's international obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961
- Commonwealth legislation which establishes a licensing scheme for the lawful cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis in Australia.
The Queensland Government was the first in Australia to enable access to unregistered medicinal cannabis products containing THC for therapeutic use in Australia.
This was made possible by changes to the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR) (PDF 1.4MB) in December 2015, which allowed:
- clinical trials to use medicinal cannabis products
- therapeutic use approved by the TGA Special Access Scheme and Queensland Health.
This approval to prescribe is given to the treating doctor for a particular patient. Further changes to the HDPR in June 2016 allowed specialist doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis for certain limited classes of patients.
The Act replaced these temporary arrangements.
Cannabis is still illegal
The Queensland initiatives ensure that foundations are in place to make it possible to access medicinal cannabis treatment. The new regulations mean there are strong controls around treatment with medicinal cannabis.
These changes do not broadly legalise cannabis. Any cannabis grown, supplied or used outside of the proposed regulatory framework, at the Commonwealth and State levels, will remain illegal, regardless of the motive.