After listening to some powerful testimony by lawmakers and members of a national marijuana advocacy group, the Australian Parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of legalizing a nationwide program that will allow cannabis to be grown across the country for medicinal and scientific purposes.
According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, Senate lawmakers have officially put their seal of approval on amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act, which, in turn, will lead to the creation of an authority to oversee the licensing of cannabis farms and the nationwide distribution of medical marijuana products.
"This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals,” Minister for Health Sussan Ley said in a statement. “This is the missing piece in a patient's treatment journey, and [we] will now see seamless access to locally produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy.”
Although the details of the nation’s newfound medical marijuana program are still in development, the federal government says patients with a valid prescription will have access to locally grown cannabis products. However, before the first seed can be planted, officials must determine what types of medical marijuana can be grown and manufactured – a fairly expeditious process that could lead to the initial crop being planted within the next month.
The campaign to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in Australia was lead by a woman by the name of Lucy Haslam, who launched an organization called United in Compassion after her son, Daniel, died last year from terminal bowel cancer. When petitioning Parliament to reform the nation’s pot laws, Haslam told lawmakers that she used cannabis to control the nausea and vomiting her son experienced as a result of chemotherapy treatments.
"[Daniel] would really be at peace today,” Haslam said after hearing Parliament’s decision. “He didn't want to die…but it would give him peace to know this is going to help so many Australians. I think he'd be proud."
While it is now legal to grow marijuana in Australia, officials still have a long road before the concept of a functional medical marijuana program contributes to the well being of society. For starters, more will need to be done to get physicians onboard in regards to working with patients interested in using this medicine, not to mention all of the regulatory issues that could emerge and prevent cannabis products from being distributed in a safe and efficient manner. Nevertheless, lawmakers say they are fully prepared to reintroduce legislation in the future to address any issues that may arise.