Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — My question is to the Minister for Families and Children, representing the Minister for Health. In October 2015 the government announced that it had accepted all recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission in relation to medicinal cannabis. These included the extension of medicinal cannabis to adults with multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV/AIDS, epileptic conditions and severe chronic pain. My question is: nearly two years after that announcement, why is medicinal cannabis treatment not yet available for these conditions?
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — Thank you, Minister; I look forward to that. I do appreciate the work that the government and Minister Pulford have been doing in expanding this industry and the cultivation of this plant. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that ‘medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates’. So where medicinal cannabis is legal for pain relief, you find significantly less — up to 25 per cent less — opioid overdoses. Again I am asking when we will provide medicinal cannabis as an option to opioids in this state.
The PRESIDENT — Can I just indicate that there are a couple of matters Ms Patten has gone to in the last two days of sitting that may be related to information obtained on a parliamentary committee and subject to evidence that was presented to that parliamentary committee. It is obviously not possible for a member to move into that area of discussing matters that have been taken as evidence and to canvass that publicly without it having gone through the proper committee processes. I am taking it on the basis that perhaps this knowledge that Ms Patten brings to question time today is based on the broader examination of laws in other places rather than evidence led to the committee. I just warn members to be careful about using information that has been obtained in committee evidence too prematurely in a public manner.
Ms Shing — On a point of order, President, can I just seek clarification on that? Where evidence has been produced in the context of a committee hearing or a parliamentary inquiry and is then made public and therefore on the public record, does that rule still apply in relation to questions that can be put in this place?
The PRESIDENT — Sorry?
Ms Shing — Where evidence has been produced and provided to a committee and then published — for example, as a transcript or a submission that is then publicly available — I would assume then that that does fall within the scope of a question that can be asked. I am just seeking some guidance from you on that.
The PRESIDENT — That would be all right. Again it depends on the nature of how the evidence has been obtained and on whether or not it is public evidence and whether it has basically gone through a process of the committee looking at it, as distinct from being used ahead of those proper committee deliberations and receiving clearance, if you like.
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, President, and thanks for the clarification. Just to confirm, this information is from a 2014 study. It is certainly not part of any evidence we have received in the inquiry.