Victoria has recently passed two significant pieces of legislation regarding cannabis. In some ways they make progress, in other ways they set us back. Share this article to help educate people about the positive progress that has been made in Victoria but also to raise awareness about the progress yet to be made.
Access to Medical Cannabis Bill 2016
This bill is misleadingly publicised as the legalisation of medical cannabis. We are not satisfied that it did legalise medical cannabis, instead it ambiguously legalised medical cannabis products. Medical cannabis means cannabis cultivated or manufactured for medicinal purposes or for research purposes. Medicinal cannabis product means a substance, compound, preparation or mixture that is manufactured from cannabis for human use or consumption. This is unacceptably ambiguous and allows prescriptions to be limited to pharmaceutical products, such as Sativex by GW Pharmaceuticals.
Furthermore, this bill unreasonably restricts the patient groups allowed to benefit from medical cannabis.
Specifically, the only eligible patient group are people under 18 years of age suffering severe seizures from epilepsy. Absurdly, when a person with severe epilepsy turns 18 they must stop taking the medication that has helped them.
Currently, access is very restrictive and only applies "where other treatment options have not proved effective or have generated intolerable side effects, and who meets any other prescribed criteria." This extremely narrow window for prescription limits medical cannabis to a very small minority of patients. There are still many more groups of patients who would benefit from the use of medical cannabis.
However, Drug Law Reform Australia is happy to report that the bill "also allows for further categories of eligible patients to be prescribed in regulations." We must continue to pressure the Victorian government and other state governments to amend medical cannabis bills to take more progressive stances and allow more groups of patients to safely benefit from medical cannabis. We must pressure them to broaden the scope of prescription to allow the use of medical cannabis, not just medical cannabis products.
Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment Act 2016
We regret that Victoria has unreasonably introduced harsher penalties for trafficking or attempted trafficking of 'drugs of dependence' near schools, even if children are not involved. The new laws are also regressive in that they have introduced stringent censorship of information regarding cannabis and other drugs.
Section 71AC is updated to increase penalties for trafficking near or at schools. Worryingly, trafficking in a public space within 500m of a school can land you a maximum sentence of 20-years imprisonment, even if the person you to whom you are trafficking is not a child. A traffickable quantityod cannabis is considered greater than 250 grams, or 10 plants.
The amendment introduces stricter censorship laws regarding information about trafficking and cultivation. Section 71E of the DPCS has been updated to criminalise possession of information. Unauthorised possession of a document containing instructions for the trafficking or cultivation of a drug of dependence, including cannabis, can land you a maximum sentence of 5-years in prison.
Section 71F of the DPCS has been updated to criminalise publication of information. Unauthorised publication of a document containing instructions for the trafficking or cultivation of a drug of dependence, including cannabis, can land you a maximum 10-years in prison. This clause is worded ambiguously, specifically 71F(1)(b) says the subsection applies even if the person publishing such information is "...being reckless as to whether the instructions will be used by another person for the purpose of the trafficking or cultivation of a drug of dependence."
Subsection 71F (2) ensures that the penalties in subsection 71F (1) apply even if the information published does not work. And subsection 71F (3) broadens the word of publish to include "sell, offer for sale, let on hire, exhibit, display, distribute and demonstrate."
Spread the word
Please help the cause by sharing this informational article on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You can also help by contacting your local member and expressing your concern about these laws. Here is a list of our Victorian Candidates. See our website for candidates in other states.