Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association (AMCA) company secretary Teresa Nicoletti has announced the organisation’s second year will see the creation of a compassionate access scheme for patients.

Teresa Nicoletti - Cannabis Australia - Cannabiz
AMCA company secretary Teresa Nicoletti

Speaking exclusively to Cannabiz on AMCA’s first birthday, she said: “As part of its second year initiatives, AMCA will be laying the groundwork for the launch of a compassionate access program, which will involve broad consultation with and input from regulatory authorities, industry, clinicians and other healthcare professionals, and patient advocacy groups.”

AMCA board chair Lucy Haslam first began speaking to then NSW Premier Mike Baird about a compassionate access program before medicinal cannabis was legalised in 2016. However, the discussions faltered after federal legislation was enacted.

Haslam said the growth of the industry has put the plan back on the table: “It is only now that the possibility of such a program is taking shape, with some early, in-principal agreement by regulators to be involved in fleshing out the logistics.”

She added: “AMCA and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians Australian Chapter (SCCAC) now have the capacity, with the involvement of clinicians, legal advisors, industry and advocacy [groups], to make this dream a reality.”

AMCA is today celebrating its one-year anniversary after launching on July 15 2020. The not-for-profit charity launched with the aim of representing the breadth of the sector, and has been involved in a variety of activities over the past 12 months.

In November 2020, it founded SCCAC, which Haslam described as “a significant achievement”.

She added: “As the Australian division of the international Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the chapter aims to provide an educational and scientific society of qualified physicians and other professionals dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of cannabis for medical use.

“Many members of SCCAC are also members of AMCA and the two organisations complement each other’s efforts.”

Reflecting back on the last year, AMCA general manager Gail Wiseman said the organisation now includes more than 140 individual members, from patients and their healthcare practitioners to industry and affiliated organisations.

She said: “A key achievement for AMCA has been to build a community of like-minded and dedicated individuals from across the sector.”

AMCA launched a campaign on behalf of military veterans like Derek Pyrah

The group also organised a campaign on behalf of military veterans to improve access to medicinal cannabis, especially for those with PTSD whose medicine is not subsidised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

In line with their work to remove barriers to patient access, AMCA entered into a collaborative partnership with the Drive Change campaign to try to change the current drug-driving laws relating to medicinal cannabis.

Wiseman pledged AMCA would continue working to break down barriers to access over the next 12 months.

“We now have enough members to help us address key issues such as access and affordability, drug-driving laws, access for veterans and better support for the still young industry,” she said.

Haslam added: “The second year for AMCA is likely to be one of consolidation, growth and hopefully delivering on some of the key projects that have been identified by the board as priorities.

“It will be time to put our thoughts into actions with a view always to working towards supporting patient access by working collaboratively with Industry, health professionals and the regulators.”