The Epilepsy Association of Western Australia and a Perth-based medical cannabis company are rejoicing at the federal government's decision to introduce a national scheme to legalise medicinal cannabis by licensing growers.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said on Wednesday the government had drafted legislation to establish a single scheme for growers of medical cannabis in all states and territories, which would be introduced in Parliament's first sitting fortnight next year.
Epilepsy Association of Western Australia chief executive Suresh Rajan said the news was good for the WA economy and for sufferers of epilepsy, which he said was the state's most common serious neurological condition, affecting one per cent of the population.
Mr Rajan said about 25,000 Western Australians had epilepsy and a third of those were known to be struggling to manage the condition.
"People do not realise the impact," he said.
"They think you have a seizure and you move on.
"But many people are having up to 500 seizures a day. They just move from one to the next to the next. One child of a mother I know had a seizure lasting 13 hours. It is debilitating."
He said the cost of hospitalising people for epileptic seizures was about $20 million per year.
Many Australians already use cannabis medicinally, albeit illegally, especially for chronic pain.
Mr Rajan said in the United States, the 23 states that were using medicinal cannabis had shown that epilepsy responded well to such treatment.
"If we can reduce that cost to both the economy and to families, this will be worthwhile," he said.
Perth-based MMJ PhytoTech, which made its ASX debut in January, is poised to enter the Australian market as an organisation which is able to grow, extract, refine and supply medicinal cannabis in pharmaceutical grade forms for controlled delivery.
An ASX announcement in October announced the company's intention to enter the local market after the federal government said it was considering the legislation.
Spokesman Gaelan Bloomfield said the company had since then appointed leading Australian law firm Piper Alderman to act as legal counsel on this entrance.
He said it looked as if the Australian system could be very similar to the Canadian system in terms of its licensing scheme, a market where MMJ PhytoTech was already engaged.
MMJ PhytoTech already has operations in British Columbia, Canada and is currently selling its products in Europe.
"We know the Canadian licensing system so we are very well positioned to be on the front foot as Australian regulation evolves," he said.
"The Canadian system is by far the most well structured regulatory system for medicinal cannabis [globally].
"As a company we support any regulatory reform in this area and we're encouraged by these discussions at a federal level.
"This regulation is going to provide people with access to medicine that could dramatically improve their quality of life.
"As someone who has met with people who suffer from drug resistant epilepsy and MS I know that access to these medicines has the potential to improve their quality of life. We support any regulatory reform that will allow this to happen."
The federal government had previously planned to introduce a law before the end of this year to allow the states and territories to licence growers in their own jurisdictions, but the Minister changed her mind after consultations with governments and law enforcement agencies showed some states were waiting on a federal regulatory scheme.
"I am confident creating one single, nationally-consistent cultivation scheme, rather than eight individual arrangements, will not only help speed up the legislative process, but ultimately access to medicinal cannabis products as well," Health Minister Sussan Ley said.
It is unclear whether the scheme will attract enough support in the Senate, as it still differs significantly from the Greens' model to create a new national regulator that would oversee the growth, manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis.