Medical Marijuana Win in Australia
THE GOOD NEWS
The Federal Government has announced it will legalise the growing of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Health Minister Sussan Ley said she had been moved by stories of people who got some relief from medicinal cannabis sourced illegally on the black market and that with a terminal condition, the most important thing is quality of life and relief of pain.
Cannabis is essentially a wonder drug with anecdotal evidence that it may assist with treat- ing, prevention or even cure of some cancers and has been used for millennia by humans to treat a wide range of illnesses and their symp- toms, particularly for anyone suffering seizures. Cannabis is grown with varying levels of THC (which is the psychoactive element of the plant ie -the bit that gets you intoxicated) and can be used safely consumed in its raw or juiced state as a health supplement.
The War on Drugs has many unintended consequences and created many victims. Since 1971 Australian drug laws have been based on a framework of Prohibition. Some drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, Panadol, Viagra etc. are legally regulated and others like Cannabis have been made illegal and yet are still available on a highly lucrative black market.
While the Politician’s have been playing politics many people have been forced to break the law and buy cannabis illegally to treat disease or the side effects of illnesses such as chronic pain, insomnia or appetite and weight loss. For some parents with children suffering life threatening seizures and epilepsy the choice has been cruel. Those who have openly challenged the system have been threatened with police intervention and face having their child removed from their custody by the state or stop the lifesaving medication and watch their child slip back into continual seizures, fits and black outs know- ing each time that permanent brain damage is occurring. Children like Cooper Wallace, a four- year-old boy whose parents discovered medical cannabis to treat his epilepsy and spasms.
"If you saw him before, he was wasting away, he couldn't lift his head, he couldn't move, he couldn't eat or drink. He's doing all of that now," said Cooper's mother Cassie Batten.
The NSW Government has committed $9 million for clinical trials and up to $12 million to set up a Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation. Victoria has also announced clinical trials for medicinal cannabis, but until the change in legislation occurs they will not been able to legally grow the crop.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale welcomed the plan but said more needs to be done to ensure patients can access the medicine.
"We're seeing legislation that would license growers but really ignores the most important part of the equation and that is making sure that people who need this drug can get access to it"
What is being proposed?
• The Federal Government has announced that it will seek parliamentary support before year's end to allow the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes. Patients may be able to access regulated medicinal cannabis as early as 2017.
• The Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014, a private member's bill which had cross-party support, was to have been tabled in parliament in November by the Greens. It would have established a regulator independent from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which would have overseen a scheme to make medicinal cannabis available to patients who qualify for treatment.
State initiatives - The NSW Government has announced a series of clinical trials to commence in 2016 and including trials for:
• Children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy
• Adults with terminal illness, focusing on improving quality of life and symptoms such as pain, nausea and vomiting
• Adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, where standard treatment is ineffective.
Last December the NSW Government announced a scheme to protect certain categories of patients in possession of limited quantities of medicinal cannabis from prosecution but patients need to register with the Government.
The NSW Government has also established a Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation to oversee clinical trials, research and education.
Why waste time repeating trials already done overseas?
With clinical trials beginning in NSW into using cannabis products to treat childhood epilepsy (and to treat pain and nausea among chemotherapy patients and those with terminal illnesses), and rhetorical support from the federal government, suddenly the political climate seems to have changed towards medical marijuana but there are still concerns about delays.
The Tasmanian Government is finalising its involvement in the trial and has offered to supply participants from the state. However, trials could prove difficult, with some parents who use Cannabis to treat their seriously ill children refusing to put them at risk.
Nicole Cowles lives in Hobart and treats her nine-year-old daughter Alice's life-threatening seizures with cannabis oil, even though it is ille- gal. Nicola is adamant that she will not allow her daughter to be part of the trial because "the risk of being given a placebo, or sugar water more or less, is terrifying especially, when her seizures are so life-threatening and so well controlled now in comparison to how they ever have been."
Thanks to the Haslams and everyone involved.
This outcome is the result of hard work and dedication over decades by many committed individuals, families and groups including Dan Haslam; a 20 year old diagnosed with bowel cancer and his families courageous battle to have cannabis legalised for medicinal purposes caught the media’s attention and Dan became the face of ‘medical marijuana’. Dan’s parents Lucy and Lou who is a former drug squad officer are the ones championing the cause in the Australian Parliament.