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Victoria outlines medical marijuana plans

Up to 90 children with severe epilepsy will have early access to medicinal marijuana in Victoria, as the state sets its sights on becoming the country’s leading exporter.

Imported medicinal cannabis has already been offered to 29 children with severe intractable epilepsy but an expansion of the compassionate early access scheme will mean an extra 30 will have access to the treatment. And once Victoria has its own locally produced product, another 30 will also be provided with the life-changing medicine.

“These are children for whom, very sadly, the long-term prognosis is not always a positive one and simply cannot afford to wait until the commonwealth funding arrangements catch up,” Health Minister Jill Hennessy said on Wednesday.

“For many of these children, this medication has led to a reduction in seizures and making an incredibly important difference in their daily lives and in the lives of their families.”

Victoria was the first state in Australia to legalise access to medicinal cannabis for those in exceptional circumstances in 2016 but Hennessy said it’s increasingly challenging to make it both “accessible and affordable”. She wants medicinal cannabis to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“Medicinal marijuana can be like many unsubsidised medicines … (it) can be extremely expensive and serve as a great challenge for families,” Hennessy said.

The state plans to be the national leader in medicinal cannabis exports, with plans to supply of half Australia’s product by 2028. Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford predicted as many as 500 jobs will be created as growing and manufacturing facilities are approved in the state, following the green light from Canberra to begin exports.

“We will aim to build a robust and thriving industry that is capable of both reaching domestic demand … and international markets,” Pulford said.

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