7 July 2021

On 24 June 2021, the Narcotic Drugs Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2021 (Amendment Act) received Royal Assent. The Amendment Act provides for amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (the Act) to support an innovative Australian medicinal cannabis industry for the benefit of Australian patients.

The Amendment Act's measures principally give effect to recommendations of the review of the Act carried out by Professor John McMillan AO in 2019.

The key outcomes of the changes to the Act are:

  • Reducing the burden of regulation in the license assessment process, by providing for a single medicinal cannabis licence to replace the current complement of licences required for cultivation, production, manufacture and research.
  • Providing greater certainty to business and reducing duplicative processes by providing for the majority of licences to be perpetual.
  • Reaffirming the Australian Government's commitment to patient availability of safe, legal and sustainable supply of cannabis derived medicines.

The changes maintain the careful balance the Act strikes between facilitating cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis, and implementing Australia's obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to safeguard against illegal practices, to provide for safe and sustainable pathways for patient access to medicinal cannabis.

The amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act made by the Amendment Act and relevant transitional provisions will commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation, but they must commence by 24 December 2021 at the latest. This will enable necessary changes to be made to the Narcotic Drugs Regulation 2016 and to prepare administratively for the new framework. Industry and stakeholder information sessions will be held prior to the commencement of the Act changes.

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