Decision Maker Response

Senator Richard Di Natale’s response

May 16, 2019 — Thank you for signing the change.org petition to ‘Fix Dan’s Law’ and boost access to medicinal cannabis for patients around Australia.

The Greens have lead political action on medicinal cannabis for many years. We have introduced numerous bills in state and federal parliaments, while the major parties remained silent. We will continue to fight alongside patients and advocates to get action on this until all
Australians are able to access medicinal cannabis through pathways that are equitable, accessible and free.

I first proposed a bill into the Senate in 2014 to establish an independent regulator of medicinal cannabis and secured support from across the political spectrum and from the sector and patient advocates. Unfortunately, at the eleventh hour the government decided to adopt a
different approach, using the TGA to regulate medicinal cannabis.

We have had concerns about the TGA pathway from the outset, and these concerns have been borne out in the huge barriers that patients face to accessing medicinal cannabis. I have used Senate Estimates to pursue the government about the lack of prescribers, and the low number prescriptions being dispensed - I don’t need to tell you how slowly these numbers are going up.

The Government’s true intentions were revealed in 2017 when they introduced regulations which would have restricted patients from importing medicinal cannabis. We disallowed this regulation, with the support of the senate. Only three days later, the government ignored the
ruling of the Senate and wrote to importers telling them that they would still be blocked from importing medicinal cannabis. In response, I introduced and successfully passed the Securing Patient Access bill through the Senate in September 2017 to allow Australians the dignity and access that patients in other parts of the world have. Shamefully, the Liberals did not support this change in the lower house.

The TGA has never been the right model for medicinal cannabis. The purpose of the TGA is to approve pharmaceutical products, not a complex plant like medicinal cannabis. Cannabis is a unique plant that contains multiple chemical compounds and therapeutic effects that simply can never fit into the TGA’s model of regulation. There will continue to be barriers to access as long as the TGA is the pathway used by the government.

The ALP’s announcement that they will continue to use the TGA, shows that they don’t understand medicinal cannabis and the problems with the TGA. The TGA process has been given the opportunity to work, and it has failed.

Where medicinal cannabis is used successfully overseas, independent agencies are used that are separate from other pharmaceutical approval processes. In Israel, the national medicinal cannabis agency operates as a wholesaler and distributor of medicinal cannabis. Product is distributed to approved pharmacies, and patients are able to trial different strains to establish which gives them the best effect.

Action needs to be taken on this urgently. I will be reintroducing my bill to establish an independent regulator when the Senate next sits, and I again invite the ALP to get on board. The independent body will be responsible for licensing the production, manufacture, supply, use, research and import and export of medicinal cannabis. It’s a model that would faster, easier access for people who need it while still ensuring that the system is safe and medical practitioners are involved. The current approach isn’t working and it’s time to change it.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Richard di Natale
Leader of the Australian Greens and Senator for Victoria