Ms DAWKINS question to Mr FERGUSON, representing MINISTER for POLICE, FIRE and EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Your Government announced their plans for a controlled access scheme for medicinal cannabis over the weekend. We congratulate you on your change of heart for the sake of the many Tasmanians who are currently being forced to break the law to access treatment. However your scheme will not come online until 2017. Over the next 12 months, what protection are you giving to those same Tasmanians who are currently breaking the law and to the police officers who are being asked to turn a blind eye?
Madam Speaker, I am representing the minister for Police in the House this week and I thank the member for Bass, Ms Dawkins, for her question.
Importantly, the decision of Tasmania Police to prosecute occurs on a case-by-case basis, informed by advice of Tasmania Police Prosecution Services and the Director of Public Prosecutions as required. The reason cannabis is a prohibited substance is because it can be a dangerous drug, especially for young people.
The Government's previous advice from Tasmania Police remains the same - that active pursuit of people who reasonably claim to be taking cannabis products for medical purposes is not an operational police priority. As the member quite rightly pointed out, the Government has announced a controlled access scheme for medical cannabis and that has been welcomed right around the community, and to those members in this House who have also welcomed the initiative I thank them for that.
Under the controlled access scheme, a medical specialist will be able to seek approval to prescribe a medical cannabis product for a specified medical condition. In particular I acknowledge the very strong support for the scheme from Epilepsy Tasmania with the chair of the board, Mr Ian Sauer, stating this is a leap forward for Tasmanians because the efficacy of medical cannabis can now be trialled in a safe and controlled manner under the supervision of prescribing specialist doctors.
The CAS will also allow access to medical cannabis products grown lawfully under Commonwealth licences which earlier this year has been a game-changer to allow us to take this step when they come on to the market, expected to be as early as 2017. Other benefits of a local supply include a potential new industry within Australia similar to that already established for the use of Australian-grown poppies for medicinal and scientific purposes.
The Tasmanian government will continue to work with local businesses to maximise agricultural opportunities, recognising regulation and licensing is a Commonwealth matter as, indeed, as been the approval required for any cultivation initiatives, something I have made clear in this House on previous occasions despite cries to the contrary from those opposite.
In relation to the way police will conduct their operational matters into the future, as the minister for Police, who is absent from the House today, has made repeatedly clear, these are operational decisions Tasmania Police need to make in administering the law. They are bound to investigate breaches they become aware of. Under the new controlled access scheme Tasmania Police will not seek to prosecute individuals in circumstances where officers are satisfied that the cannabis is being administered for medical purposes under the new scheme.