There is a push for the ACT to become the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise cannabis for medical use under proposed laws. Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has released draft exposure legislation and a discussion paper on the proposal to make cannabis available to terminally ill patients or those suffering chronic pain.
However the ACT Labor Government has ruled out support for new laws to decriminalise cannabis use, making it difficult for the legislation to pass through the Legislative Assembly. Mr Rattenbury clarified his planned laws would not allow cannabis use to be open to the general public.
“The system is designed to ensure that those people with a genuine medical situation are the only ones who can access it,” he said.
“So there are requirements for both the doctor to give approval, then approval from the ACT Chief Health Officer and a range of other restrictions.”
Under the arrangements, people would be able to get a permit to grow the cannabis. Currently it is illegal to use cannabis for pain relief in Australia, and people who use it to cope with medical symptoms risk criminal prosecution. Mr Rattenbury said the draft legislation was designed to show compassion to seriously ill and dying people, by removing the threat of criminal sanction.
“I’m aware that this is a sensitive and controversial issue for some people in the community,” he said.
“That’s why we’re putting out a draft of the legislation and a discussion paper that makes the case and inviting feedback.
“Certainly surveys show that there is support in the community for legalising cannabis for medical purposes and I expect that this discussion paper will draw out some of that support.”
Mr Rattenbury intends to present the legislation to the ACT Legislative Assembly after eight weeks of community consultation. ACT Government will not support proposed laws Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has said the ACT Government would not be backing the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical purposes.
Ms Gallagher said the Greens proposal would be looked at, but it was not an idea that she supported.
“This is something that Shane Rattenbury has done in his capacity as a Greens MLA,” she said.
“There’s no doubt there is a community campaign underway, but at this point in time it doesn’t form the Government’s position at all.”
Countries including Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands and parts of the United States allow cannabis to be prescribed and administered by doctors like other medications.