What’s Up Down Under: The Lowdown on Australia’s Medical High
Australia legalized medical marijuana, but what happens now?
Published on March 9, 2016

Australia has finally gotten its proverbial shit together and passed a law making the growth and production of cannabis legal for medical and scientific research. But now what?

Positive pot rules are awesome but until you actually implement them, they’re just words. Australia knew this was coming so let's take a look at what is already in the works and what’s next on Oz’s leaf ‘to do’ list?

Getting the Medicine to the Patients

Medical cannabis laws fall under Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Act (what a fab name for a law-‘gonna smoke me some therapeutic goods’).  The law which states those with a prescription can use legally obtained cannabis for medicinal purposes, passed pretty smoothly. Yet there aren’t any systems in place. For instance there is no network of cannabis prescribing doctors, prescription system, regulatory agency, standards or guidelines. Cultivation is a whole new thing for the Australian feds.

Another interesting caveat to Australia's weed laws is that the feds have to get to the actual growing. But that doesn’t mean medical grade cannabis isn’t about to explode onto Australia’s economic scene. Savvy business leaders are prepping for the new niche market. There are medical marijuana providers poised to open their virtual doors. They’re just waiting for their license. One company offers not only cannabis oil and a topical cream to prescription holders but also “troches” or little dissolvable lozenges of condensed weed essence you let seep into your gums to avoid losing potency in the stomach.

Troches. Hey, I learn a new word, you learn a new word.

Fixing the state drug laws

Yes what a bloody mess they are. Just to be awkward, each Australian state has different laws regarding marijuana. Some states have decriminalized marijuana issuing fines for possession of small amounts. Some states still offer jail time. Others offer drug rehab. It’s all over the place. If they want to run a uniform federal cultivation and dispensary system, they’ll need uniform state drug laws to implement it.

Testing Cannabinoid Based Drugs

Australia has already begun clinical trials for several cannabinoid-based medicines. In order to get the federal seal of approval they need to prove it works. Governments want documented evidence before investing or promoting anything related to cannabis, medical or not. They want pieces of paper they can point to and say, “the data made me do it.” Otherwise their reliance on personal experience would be too obvious? The drug most folks are talking about is called Epidiolex. Shown to effectively treat epilepsy in children, the Australian state of New South Wales begins clinical trials this month. Epidiolex has been fast tracked by the FDA and is expected to hit American pharmacies in 2017.

Cannabis treating sick kids. This is the good stuff people. This is what’s next.

Pushing the Recreational Agenda

The call for an end to cannabis prohibition resounds across the globe and no less in the land that invented Vegemite (it’s a thing, look it up). Legal plant cultivation is just fab but what about sharing the wealth? The campaign for full legalization is strong in Australia. There’s even a political party whose sole platform is the advocacy of hemp. When passing the medical marijuana law, politicians were quick to note that there were no plans to end full prohibition. Every state made it clear that weed was still illegal. Except, you know, when it was curing sick kids and stuff…

The legalization of medical marijuana in Australia is a big deal and we should all be happy about it, but it’s just the beginning. Despite a great stride forward in the campaign for a hemp happy world, Australia has much work to do to turn green dreams into leafy realities.

Trish Popovitch
With over a decade of professional writing experience, Trish Popovitch is a British ex-pat living in wonderful windy Wyoming. Popovitch graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in the social sciences. Since 2007, she has worked as a freelance journalist and blogger with a penchant for all things green. Having spent the last two years interviewing the movers and shakers in the world of sustainable agriculture, Popovitch is excited to branch out into the growing American cannabis industry.
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