By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Members of Australia's House and Senate approved legislation this week to amend federal law to permit for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis to qualified patients.
The measure amends the Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967 to allow "for the cultivation and production of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal and scientific purposes," and to authorize "a state or territory government agency to undertake [in the] cultivation and production of cannabis and [in the] manufacture of medicinal cannabis products."
The move by Parliament follows recent efforts by several Australian territories to provide patients participating in clinical trials with access to the plant.
"This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals," Minister for Health Sussan Ley said in a statement. "This is the missing piece in a patient's treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy."
Government officials will still need to develop and approve regulations for the new program before any production licenses can be issued.
Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands are among the handful of nations that presently provide federal licenses to private growers to supply medical marijuana to qualified patients. Colombia, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico are also expected to begin licensing medical marijuana manufacturing in the near future.
In 2013, Uruguay officials approved legislation authorizing the retail production and sale of cannabis to those age 18 and older. Consumers in that country are anticipated to be able to begin purchasing cannabis at state-licensed pharmacies by mid-2016.