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Tony Abbott in to bat for medical cannabis

Tony Abbott and Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

FEDERAL Health Minister Greg Hunt will write to state colleagues to “streamline” patient access to medical cannabis after Tony Abbott went in to bat for the drug.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the former prime minister approached Mr Hunt in December after medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam raised concerns with him that terminally ill patients were being forced into the black market to access the drug because of government red tape.

It comes after GPs complained they’d given up trying to prescribe medical cannabis more than a year after it had been legalised because they were continuously being blocked by NSW Health.

In some cases patients had been blocked from accessing the drug by NSW Health even after they had gained approval from the federal government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

In a letter Mr Hunt sent to Mr Abbott, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, he concedes a “challenge” has been created by extra hoops states are making doctors jump through to get prescriptions.
 

The letter from Greg Hunt to Tony Abbott regarding medical cannabis. Picture: Supplied.

Mr Hunt says he has asked the TGA to work with NSW Health to “identify any issues” that would lead to it blocking applications that had been already approved by the TGA.

“I acknowledge that there is a challenge in that several state and territory governments have established additional processes for the approval of supply of medicinal cannabis products,” he writes.

Marijuana plants growing.

“I intend to pursue this issue again in early 2018, noting that the states and territories do have a role to play in accessing the suitability of a doctor to prescribe, and the patient to receive, all Schedule 8 controlled medicines (including medicinal cannabis products).”

Mr Hunt, however, goes on to defend the federal government’s medical cannabis schemes, arguing that despite “negative publicity”, more doctors were prescribing the drug.

“The real problem is that some advocates believe that if an individual patient decides that they need medicinal cannabis, they should automatically get it,” the minister said.

“The government did not commit to allowing anyone that decided they need medicinal cannabis automatic access.”

While Mr Abbott had said he “had no problem with the medical use of cannabis” when Prime Minister in 2014, this is the first time he has acted as an advocate for the drug in recent years.

Mr Abbott’s close friend and NSW former premier Mike Baird is also a staunch advocate for medical cannabis.

In November, The Daily Telegraph revealed he had become an official patron of Ms Haslam’s medical cannabis charity, United in Compassion.

At the time he said governments needed to “act quickly” for families in desperate situations needing the drug.

Originally published here: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/tony-abbott-in-to-bat-for-medical-cannabis/news-story/d28c905ad8a5536626984d47dd6578a9