Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration quietly rolled out a streamlined application process for medical cannabis on Monday — but only Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales are involved for now.
In April, politicians from around the country met and agreed to the idea of a national scheme that would see patients' waiting time for medical cannabis application results reduced from months to days, but there was no deadline given on the program's rollout.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt called the new process a "one-stop shop for accessing medicinal cannabis."
Accessed via the TGA's website, Australian prescribers in the approved jurisdictions will be able to submit applications to the TGA and a state or territory health department simultaneously. Previously, a complicated process involved prescribers having to apply separately, with reports that navigating the scheme took months.
While the new system does represent an easier, online pathway for applications, it should be noted that the new portal doesn't act as a faster avenue for approvals.
In Queensland, for example, the state's medicinal cannabis expert advisory panel will still have a say in whether or not a prescriber is given full approval, if its advice is requested or needed.
A father who sought approval for his child in the past told BuzzFeed News the new application setup does little in Queensland. "It only reduces the amount of papers from two to one," he said.
Only prescribing health practitioners will be able to submit an application for medical cannabis via the new online system, and states and territories that are not yet involved will be included "shortly," per the TGA.
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
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