Senate debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Improving Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2023; Second Reading

11:27 am

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table an explanatory memorandum and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I am pleased to introduce the Improving Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2023.

The Bill will substantially improve Australians' access to medicinal cannabis and create an avenue for the listing of cannabis on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Bill will allow Australians access to a wider range of medicines increasingly supported by doctors and veterinarians for treating a wide variety of conditions in people and their pets.

The Pathways system for medicinal cannabis had some success with its initial measures to provide access to these medicines. However issues with cost, availability, access and quality have made it hard for Australians to secure the right medicine for themselves or their pets.

This has caused a reduction in uptake in recent months.

The Improving Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2023, as the name implies, seeks to reverse this decline and ensure Australians and their pets can be prescribed appropriate medicinal cannabis treatments by doctors and veterinarians.

The legislation will amend the regulatory framework for medicinal cannabis to improve access by:

Firstly, allowing any prescribing medical practitioner to provide prescriptions, the current system is for a small number of "approved prescribers" who are often not located in rural and remote areas.

The Bill does not recommend what products are made available. The Pathways system now has 7 pages of approved cannabis products, across a wide range of profiles. Products include dried herb and vaping products.

There is no reason why those products will not remain available under the Improving Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2023.

Secondly, excluding hemp products with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of up to 1% from regulation, increasing this limit from 0.1%. This harmonises Commonwealth law with the States, all of whom already allow hemp to contain 1% THC.

At this level, THC can't produce a hallucinogenic response.

Thirdly, allowing cannabis products with THC below 1% and Cannabidiol (CBD) below 10% to be sold over the counter in a pharmacy or veterinarian to a person aged over 18.

This Schedule 3 listing would allow the following forms of cannabis to be sold: oral, oromucosal, topical and sublingual preparations. This would commonly create new ranges of products including oils and tinctures, capsules, creams and topicals, bath bombs, patches, nasal sprays and powders, most likely protein supplements with higher CBD than is allowed for a food product in the supermarket.

Existing restrictions on providing medicinal cannabis treatments to children under 18 will be retained—children won't be able to get a cannabis product over the counter. Doctors will of course be able to prescribe a cannabis product for a child if, in their medical opinion, it is the best interests of the patient.

Fourthly, the Improving Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2023 retains the current limits for THC and CBD in food products, as controlled by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The Bill does make a small wording change to that listing. Currently food with low THC and low CBD is exempt from classification, however the listing is not for hemp products but hemp oil. Many products currently available in supermarkets use hemp seed and hemp seed flour. The wording change is to add "hemp seed" to the listing for hemp oil, which also covers hemp seed flour.

Some current cannabis-based products are moved from Schedule 8 to Schedule 4 by this bill. While the listing is no longer required because it is covered by the new cannabis listing, this bill retains those listings for clarity and an abundance of caution.

The bill will not affect cannabis legalisation in the Australian Capital Territory.

Many Australians are seeking more natural medical treatments for themselves and their pets. It's only natural for One Nation to put Australians first with this bill.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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