Australia is on its way to becoming the next country to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Despite concerns expressed by a federal agency over legal weed creating unwanted tension with international drug treaties, the nation’s policy makers are reportedly working to pass legislation in 2015 that would legalize a nationwide medical marijuana program.
A multi-partisan committee comprised of coalition, labor and cross-bench senators is on a mission to set up the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill, which would make the Australian government responsible for the cultivation, distribution and the overall regulatory affairs of the cannabis trade.
The bill was submitted to Parliament last November, and has since been transferred to the committee for its consideration. After a series of public hearings and deep national debate, it is expected the committee will “strongly recommend” that Parliament get behind the momentum and approve a marijuana regulator.
The committee is expected to release its full report on August 10.
In the meantime, the Health Department argues that legalizing medical marijuana could create “complexity and uncertainty” with the nation’s Therapeutic Goods Act and the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Martin Bowles, the department secretary, warns that the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill does not address crucial legal and practical issues that could lead “to the risk of regulatory gap, overlapping laws and a lack of clarity about the exercise of jurisdiction by agencies and possible inconsistency with other existing laws.”
Yet, Senator Di Natale says that regardless of the potential obstacles surrounding the bill, he argues that that the single convention has not caused any problems for the United States or any other country that has legalized marijuana for medical purposes – he believes Australia would receive the same respect.
The latest polls indicate that two-thirds of Australians support the legalization of medical marijuana.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also expressed his support for the bill. “I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis,” he said.