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21st February 2024 17:52
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (17:52): (722)

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, Minister Thomas. This week is Medicinal Cannabis Awareness Week – a time to focus on combating the stigma around medicinal cannabis and raising awareness about barriers to access.

It was Victoria who led Australia in 2015 with the passage of the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015. One of the first groups to access medicinal cannabis under these changes was children with severe epilepsy.

In their second-reading speech on this bill the former Minister for Health, Minister Hennessy, gave an example of one child who contracted bacterial meningitis and was left with severe brain damage, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

This child’s seizures would last up to an hour and a half. Doctors advised there was nothing that could be done and that the parents should start planning for the child’s funeral.

Fortunately, access to medicinal cannabis oil allowed this child to be seizure-free and to have a good quality of life.

In making these changes this government recognised that parents should not be forced to turn to the illicit market in desperation to alleviate the pain and suffering of their children.

But earlier last year the Therapeutic Goods Administration changed the rules for prescribing category 2 medicinal cannabis to children under the age of 17.

Instead of a GP prescription, applications must now be supported by a paediatrician or relevant specialist, meaning more cost and more wait time.

We know that access to medicinal cannabis has been life-changing and life-saving for many children and their parents. In Penington’s latest report on cannabis in Australia it was found that most GPs do not have the confidence or knowledge to discuss medicinal cannabis inquiries with patients.

Of course we need to protect children’s health with appropriate safeguards, but we also must avoid inadvertently creating more barriers to access that fail to address the stigma and knowledge gap associated with medicinal cannabis. So the action I seek is that the minister commit to ensuring that children can receive their prescribed treatment by their GP without impediment and that health practitioners receive better training on how and when it is appropriate to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

[ENDS]

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