MEDICAL CANNABIS

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on access to medical cannabis in South Australia?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I thank the honourable member for his question. In public discussion of medicinal cannabis, it is sometimes said that medicinal cannabis is illegal in South Australia. Let me be very clear on that at the outset: access to prescribed medicinal cannabis in South Australia is legal, just as it is in other Australian jurisdictions, following the passage of commonwealth legislation in 2016.

The mechanism for approval for medicinal cannabis products is through the Therapeutic Goods Administration, just as for other pharmaceutical products. Currently in Australia there is only one medicinal cannabis medicine registered for use. There are, however, many unregistered medicinal cannabis products available in Australia through commonwealth-approved importers and suppliers.

Along with other Australian jurisdictions, South Australia works within a national framework. The framework includes the ability for Australians to make online applications for faster and streamlined approvals for medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis products. However, South Australia does lag behind other Australian jurisdictions in prescribing rates. We are well below the national proportion you would expect for our population.

The Marshall government acknowledges this slower take-up rate in South Australia. We believe that there is a range of factors affecting the decision to prescribe or not to prescribe. One of those is the relatively short time that medicinal cannabis products have been available, meaning that often GPs will not have access to the information which would allow them to confidently consider medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment option.

To this end, earlier this week SA Health wrote directly to GPs and GP representative organisations providing information and resources to help GPs educate themselves about medicinal cannabis. As well as links to the information already available on the SA Health website, the email includes links to online training modules available from both the AMA and the RACGP.

Any decision to consider medicinal cannabis as a treatment option is a matter for the patient and their medical practitioner, taking into consideration the patient's clinical information and the safety and efficacy of the product for the condition being treated. The final decision about patient access to medicinal cannabis must be made by clinicians, not politicians. I encourage general practitioners to make use of the material available to them to ensure that South Australians are able to access the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis.