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Review of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967

Announcement of reviewer

14 December 2018

The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, has appointed Professor John McMillan AO to review and report on the operation of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967.

The Narcotic Drugs Act establishes a framework to both prevent abuse and diversion of controlled narcotics and to ensure the availability of such drugs for medical and research purposes, in accordance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Since October 2016, the Act was extended to provide for the regulation of cannabis cultivation and production in Australia, to enable a sustainable supply of safe medicinal cannabis products for therapeutic purpose.

A review of the operation of the Narcotics Drugs Act, as soon as possible after the second anniversary of the commencement of the 2016 amendments, is required under section 26A of that Act, with the report to be tabled in Parliament by 29 October 2019.

Professor McMillan has very strong legal credentials and administrative law experience in a range of areas relevant to the Review. He has had a number of appointments at the highest professional levels, including as an academic, practising administrative lawyer and Commonwealth agency head. These appointments include (Australian Information Commissioner, Commonwealth Ombudsman and acting NSW Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. He is an Emeritus Professor at ANU with expertise in administrative and constitutional law).

A public consultation process will form part of the review and this is expected to commence in early 2019.

Further details will be provided in due course.

Terms of reference

The Narcotic Drugs Act establishes a framework to both prevent abuse and diversion of controlled narcotics and to ensure the availability of such drugs for medical and research purposes, in accordance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 (the Single Convention), as in force from time to time. The Act provides for the control of drugs obtained from the opium poppy and the regulation of the manufacture of licit narcotics, such as morphine. With effect from October 2016, the Act was extended to include a regime for the regulation of cannabis cultivation and production in Australia, to enable a sustainable supply of safe medicinal cannabis products for therapeutic purposes and to benefit Australian patients in need (the 2016 Amendments).

Noting that the object of the Narcotic Drugs Act, as set out in section 2A, is to give effect to certain of Australia's obligations under the Single Convention, the Review should inquire into and report on the operation of the Act, including considering whether the measures implemented are working efficiently and effectively or could be improved for the benefit of affected parties (being applicants and regulated entities as well as the department administering the Act).

In particular, the Review should consider and make recommendations on:

  1. the efficiency and effectiveness of the structure of the licensing and permit regimes and other restrictions in the Act in controlling the supply of narcotic drugs and options to reduce the regulatory burden on affected parties, whilst still achieving the object of the Act.
  2. the efficiency and effectiveness of the obligations in the Act relating to the provision of information and other administrative requirements and options for reducing the regulatory burden on affected parties, whilst still achieving the object of the Act.
  3. the appropriateness of the compliance and enforcement regime in the Act, including in relation to the Secretary's functions and powers.

Frequently asked questions

For more information on the review of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (the Act) and next steps, please see our frequently asked questions below.

No, the review is restricted to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 which establishes the regulatory framework for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis in Australia. Patient access to medicinal cannabis, which is provided under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 is not included in the Narcotic Drugs Act legislation and thus cannot be the subject of the review. The focus of the review on only the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 was set in the original laws.

No, access to medicinal cannabis will remain unchanged.

When the Australian Parliament passed amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act in February 2016 to establish the regulatory framework for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis, given that the framework was new, the Parliament included Section 26A in the Act to enable a review. Section 26A of the Act provides that a review of the Act must occur after the second year of the commencement of the 2016 amendments - these amendments commenced on 30 October 2016.

In accordance with the Narcotic Drugs Act, a report of the review must be tabled in both houses of parliament by 29 October 2019. However, it is envisaged that Professor John McMillan AO will complete the necessary research, analysis and consultation during the first four months of 2019.

Yes, details regarding consultation and timeframes will be published shortly. It is planned that public meetings will be held in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in early February 2019 and that there will also be opportunities for written submissions to be made by members of the public.

Yes, Professor McMillan has been appointed to undertake an independent review of the medicinal cannabis regulatory scheme (amongst other things) under the Narcotic Drugs Act. Professor McMillan's final report and recommendations will be considered by the government and wider Parliament.

The terms of reference are outlined above. See Terms of reference

No, the review of the Act will be independent of the ODC and will not have an immediate impact on ODC's regulatory assessment processes and timeframes.

No. At this stage there are no changes to the legislation or regulations. Additionally, fees and charges for applications and licence holders remain unchanged.

Once the review is finalised, a report will be tabled in both houses of Parliament. The report may contain recommendations in regard to the operations of the Act and regulations and whether Parliament should consider future changes to legislation, regulation or its operation.

For more information, please email ReviewNarcoticDrugsAct@health.gov.au.