History

The issue of cannabis being used for medicinal purpsoses has been widely debated in Australia over many years. This has been particularly driven by a strong community interest in the therapeutic use of cannabis to provide relief for patients suffering the effects of a debilitating and/or terminal illness.

After meeting a number of patients in mid-2014, NSW Premier Mike Baird initiated a working group to establish a medicinal cannabis trial in NSW: the first trial of its kind in Australia. The NSW Government has committed $9 million in funding for clinical trials in three areas to commence in 2016.

In a further commitment to better understand the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis, the Premier also established the $12 million NSW Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research & Innovation in 2015.

Some of the key milestones for medicinal cannabis within NSW are outlined in the timeline below.

DateMilestone

September

2014

The Premier announces that the NSW Government will form a Working Group to initiate a medicinal cannabis clinical trial.

The Premier confirms that the Government will create new guidelines for Police Officers to use their discretion not to charge terminally ill adults who use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms.

October

2014

A number of other States and Territories indicate to the Premier at COAG meeting that they will support the NSW Government’s clinical trials.

December

2014

The NSW Government announces that it will provide $9 million in funding to establish clinical trials in three areas that will explore the use of cannabis in providing relief for:

  1. Children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy, through a partnership with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network
  2. Adult palliative care patients, focusing on quality of life, particularly appetite and appetite-related symptoms
  3. Adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, where standard treatment is ineffective.

These three areas for clinical trials were identified by an Expert Panel chaired by the NSW Chief Health Officer.

The Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme commences.

June

2015

Mr Barry and Mrs Joy Lambert make a donation of $33.7 million to the University of Sydney to establish the Lambert Initiative.

The Lambert Initiative will explore the potential of the cannabis plant in treating a range of diseases.

June

2015

The NSW Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation (the Centre) is launched.

The Centre will receive $12 million over four years to further develop the understanding of the benefits and treatment options medicinal cannabis may provide.

NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, is appointed the inaugural Director of the Centre.

July

2015

The NSW Government announces that it has engaged a research team, led by Associate Professor Meera Agar from the University of New South Wales, to conduct the clinical trial on the use of medicinal cannabis to improve the quality of life of people with terminal cancer. Part one of the trial will be conducted at the Calvary Mater Hospital, Newcastle.

October

2015

Commonwealth Government announces that it will seek parliamentary support to allow cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medicinal and scientific purposes.

This will require amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 and establishing a licensing scheme through the Department of Health to ensure Australia is meeting its international obligations.

NSW Government welcomes Commonwealth’s announcement.

October

2015

NSW Government signs an Memorandum of Understanding with GW Pharmaceuticals, a UK-based company, to facilitate four activities focussing on children with paediatric epilepsy:

  1. Phase 2 trial for a novel cannabinoid product, cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  2. Compassionate access scheme for Epidiolex® (a product containing the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD))
  3. Provision for NSW to host additional Phase 3 trials of Epidiolex®
  4. Phase 4 clinical trial of Epidiolex® (based on success of Phase 3 studies)

February

2016

Federal parliament passes landmark legislation to allow for the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or related scientific purposes through one national licensing scheme under the Commonwealth Department of Health.

February

2016

The NSW Government announces details for clinical trial for patients experiencing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. This research will be led by Associate Professor Peter Grimison from the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the University of Sydney.

May 

2016

The Premier announced the Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme will be renamed the Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme, and that the scheme is being reviewed to consider whether it should extend to non-terminal patients.

July

2016

In an Australian first, NSW children with severe treatment-resistant epilepsy were provided with compassionate access to Epidiolex®, an oral pharmaceutical formulation of pure cannabidiol (CBD) developed by GW Pharmaceuticals.

July

2016 

The Hon Niall Blair MLC, Minister for Primary Industries, and the Hon Pru Goward MP, Minister for Medical Research, announced that NSW has become the first Australian state authorised by the Commonwealth Government to conduct medicinal cannabis cultivation research. The cultivation research will be conducted in a new, state-of-the-art, high security facility.

August

2016 

As a result of NSW Government regulatory changes, doctors in NSW will be able to apply to prescribe a broader range of cannabis-based medicines to certain patients who have exhausted standard treatment options.