Medical cannabis will become legal in Australia, but strictly controlled from November this year.
The Narcotic Drugs Act was amended in parliament on 24 February 2016 to permit the legal cultivation of cannabis for the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products in Australia. The Amendment Bill essentially allows licensing and permit schemes to be established for the cultivation and production of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal and scientific purposes.
Queensland: Legal for specialists to prescribe for some patients from March 2017
NSW: Available for adults with end-of-life illnesses
Victoria: Available for children with epilepsy from early 2017
ACT: Legislation still in the works for 2017
Tasmania: Legislation for Controlled Access Scheme still in the works for 2017
WA: Legal for doctors to prescribe from November 1, under strict conditions
SA/NT: No information available
Subsequently, the usage of medicinal cannabis was legalized at the federal level on 1 November 2016 – as of November 2016, medicinal cannabis can be prescribed in New South Wales and Western Australia, with all other states and territories except South Australia and the Northern Territory to follow in 2017.
NSW is the first state to have been given approval to grow cannabis under licence from the federal government as part of research into the best way to cultivate the plant.
Private companies will later be able to apply for licences under the scheme. Victoria has legalized medical marijuana from next year for patients with severe childhood epilepsy. Tasmania will also legalize its use for a broader range of conditions.
There will be two cannabis licences: one that authorizes the cultivation of cannabis for manufacture into medicinal cannabis products, and another that authorizes research into the cannabis plant that is to be used for medicinal purposes.
To grow medical cannabis legally, you will need to apply for a manufacturer licence and then secure a permit. As explained in the Bill:
A manufacture licence may authorize the manufacture of a drug and activities related to such manufacture, including manufacture for the purposes of research relating to medicinal cannabis products. Before a licence holder can manufacture a drug, the licence holder must obtain a manufacture permit. Permits deal with matters such as the types and quantities of drugs that can be manufactured. Certain conditions are imposed on all manufacture licence holders and the Secretary may impose additional conditions.
You need to apply to the Secretary of the Department of Health. The Department will then decide whether to grant, or refuse to grant, the licence.
Licence holders will need to ensure crops are carefully secured and accounted for so as not to be diverted to illicit uses. The Amendment Bill goes into greater detail and is essential reading for anyone who is considering applying for a licence.
To get ahead and be prepared for when the country will start licensing cannabis businesses, you should draft a Pre-Legalization Cannabis Company Business Plan so you can see and understand the costs associated with setting up a cannabis business, as well as projected revenues and financials that will allow you to decide whether this venture is for you or not.