Australia is altering its drug laws to allow for the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes, removing a major hurdle to the establishment of clinical trials of the drug, the government said on Saturday.
Draft amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act are being finalized to allow for the controlled cultivation of marijuana, giving patients access to "a safe, legal and sustainable supply of locally produced products for the first time," Health Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.
Australian manufacturers, researchers and patients currently have to access international supplies of legal medicinal marijuana, with cost, limited supply and export barriers making this challenging.
Allowing for the controlled cultivation of marijuana in Australia will provide the critical "missing piece" where laws already exist to license the manufacture and supply of medicinal cannabis-based products, but local production of the crop remains forbidden, Ley said.
"This government is incredibly sympathetic to the suffering of those Australians with debilitating illnesses and we want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available," Ley said.
The government plans to create a licensing scheme to ensure that the cultivation of marijuana meets Australia's international obligations and to manage the supply of the drug from farm to pharmacy.