Researchers are seeking 300 veterans to participate in a trial that will allow Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers to be prescribed a baseline dose of medicinal cannabis.
It is a first for Australia.
In order to be eligible for the trial, researchers will first have to prove that the participating veterans have ‘tried everything conventional medicine has to offer.’
It is a significant step for advocates of medicinal cannabis.
Cannabis legislation around the world
Many nations around the world permit the use of medicinal cannabis.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in the Netherlands. It is also legal in 33 American states.
Canada has taken a step further and legalised the sale and recreational consumption of cannabis. This means that Canadians can access cannabis legally irrespective of whether they require it for medical reasons.
The law in Australia
Australia has been slow to consider legalising medicinal cannabis.
In 2016, the Government passed an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs Act, the effect of which was to establish licensing and permit schemes for the cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes.
Medicinal licences are regulated by The Office of Drug Control Centre (ODC).
Australia enacted the legislation to satisfy its international obligations under the United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Prior to this amendment, cannabis cultivation for scientific or medicinal purposes was prohibited.
However, in reality the amendments have had little impact on improving access to medicinal cannabis.
It can be extremely difficult to acquire a cannabis permit, with the OCD’s website admitting that the set of requirements that a person must fulfil to get a licence is ‘extensive’.
People are required to satisfy a ‘fit and proper person test’ before being granted a licence. They must also disclose their criminal history.
Defences to cannabis charges in NSW
If you are charged with a drug offence in relation to the possession or cultivation of medicinal cannabis, you may be able to argue the defence of medical necessity.
The law recognises that there are circumstances where it will be necessary to break the law to avoid a greater harm.
While not a defence per se, people who have been found in possession of a small amount of cannabis (no more than 15 grams) may be eligible for a cannabis caution.
A cannabis caution is essentially a warning. If you receive one, you will not have to go to court, and you will not receive a criminal record.
For more information on the cannabis cautioning scheme, click here.
Judicial attitudes reflect societal shift
There is no doubt that the world is moving towards embracing medicinal cannabis. This shift can sometimes be evident in judicial decisions.
In 2017 a case came before Newcastle District Court after a man was charged with cultivating a large commercial quantity of a prohibited plant (cannabis).
The man was growing the cannabis to distribute (free of charge) to patients he had engaged with through his work at a local wellness centre.
While the maximum penalty for the offence with which the man had been charged was 20 years imprisonment, the judge saw fit to impose a Conditional Release Order and did not record a conviction.
However, while there is a lack of legislation to protect medicinal cannabis users from prosecution, the risk of being convicted of drug offences remains significant.
If you have been charged with a drug offence, it is vital to engage the assistance of an experienced criminal lawyer.