For years the battle to have access to medicinal cannabis was waged in Australia. In 2016, that all changed in Tasmania with the adoption of a controlled access scheme.
But if you live in any state bar Tasmania ease of access to the scheme has been improved. There is an online system, which allows prescribers to submit a request seeking state and federal approval at once.
Tasmania is the only state not to sign up to this online system. Instead we have our own red tape that is cited as being a reason for the low number of applications and approvals.
Nationally the Therapeutics Goods Association has approved more than 56,000 Special Access Scheme category B applications for unapproved medicinal cannabis products since July 31, 2020. In July alone the TGA approved 5564 applications.
In April 2018, then Health Minister Michael Ferguson agreed at a COAG health council meeting to collaborate with other states and territories to develop and adopt a single, nationally consistent application pathway for people to access unregistered medical cannabis products.
In November of the same year, The Examiner reported that Tasmania was yet to join the system that was live from July 30, 2018.
In a statement, Mr Ferguson said the government was “continuing to work with federal counterparts to ensure a more efficient process while maintaining patient safety”.
Tasmania is still not signed up. With this approach in mind, it either means our government believes the 56,000 Australians accessing the scheme have not done so safely, which is why we haven’t joined or the government is unnecessarily making life harder for those wanting to access the scheme.
Meanwhile the state government celebrated the achievement and innovation of Tasmanian Alkaloids in officially opening its $10 million facility that will produce medicinal cannabis for distribution in Australia.
The red tape must be reduced to allow Tasmanian patients who have exhausted all other medical options to request access efficiently and without added stress.