Finally, commonsense is prevailing and there is now sufficient political will in Victoria to introduce medical marijuana as a treatment for a range of illnesses.
This will be the driver for a national introduction.
The Victorian health minister, David Davis, has announced he will amend the law to allow clinical trials of medical cannabis, days after the opposition leader, Daniel Andrews, announced he would seek to legalise the drug if elected in November.
Hopefully this will end the stalemate surrounding the legitimate use of medical marijuana which has constituents that are low in addictiveness and do not give the “highs” associated with street marijuana.
Andrews recently announced Labor would seek advice from the Victorian Law Reform Commission on the prescription, manufacture and distribution of medical cannabis, though he ruled out legalising recreational use of the drug.
The announcement followed months of campaigning by Victorian families who have been pushing for the drug to be used medically, saying it has successfully treated their chronically ill children when other medicines have not.
In the form of marijuana oil it is possible to manufacture a stable product with a predictable dose, and this will potentially be the format that pharmacists will eventually come into contact with.
Given that Australia manages one of the largest crops of opium poppy in the world, there seems to be no real reason to hold back legitimate sales for medical marijuana.
The Victorian Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act would be amended to make it easier to conduct clinical trials involving cannabis and similar highly regulated substances. NSW has temporarily staved off any hard decisions by allowing marijuana to be cultivated on Norfolk Island for export (mainly to Sweden).
The reason offered was that Norfolk needs a boost to its local economy.
It would be reasonable to assume NSW will follow Victoria once a legal framework is in place, and approve the growing of crops closer to manufacturing facilities.
Consideration would also be given to removing the prohibition on growing narcotic plants for therapeutic purposes, but in the context of approved clinical trials.
A pharmaceutical-grade cannabis extract, marketed as Sativex and already approved by Australia’s drug regulator to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, will also be investigated for treatment of pain in patients with advanced cancer.
However, Sativex is not currently recommended or designed for use by children.
The Coalition would also give in-principle support to taking part in the international trial of a drug called Epidiolex, marketed for the treatment of certain chronic childhood epilepsy conditions and not yet approved for marketing in any country.
But Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, says neither policy approach was strong, and that reform proposals should be left to medical experts and drug regulators.
“Allowing someone to grow plants for therapeutic purposes is very limiting and doesn’t help someone in their 70s or 80s and dying of cancer.
“If someone requires morphine for pain relief we don’t tell them to grow a poppy plant and distil the opium out of it. So why are we doing it for cannabis?”
He also criticised extending the use of Sativex, which is delivered in spray form directly into the mouth.
“One of the groups wanting to use cannabis is chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea and vomiting and who are resistant to other treatments,” he said.
“If you feel like vomiting, the last thing you want to do is spray something on the inside of your mouth.”
It was also only approved for treating symptoms in multiple sclerosis patients, he said, which would make doctors reluctant to prescribe it for other conditions.
The rhetoric surrounding the introduction of medical marijuana has been emotive and sometimes bordering on hysteria.
It has gone on for too long and genuine patients are suffering from not having access to this cheap and effective (and mostly safe) substance.
Pharmacists in Australia would see no impediment to dispensing the final product providing it had undergone all the normal regulatory compliance for any other medicine having herbal origins including toxicity studies and listing in an appropriate Drug Schedule.
Right at this moment in NSW we are seeing police prosecute a medical marijuana advocate for supplying marijuana tincture through a meticulously documented process, some segments even endorsed by different government agencies at federal and state level, with all patients having their doctor’s approval.
The after-effects of this senseless pursuit are summarised in this news item:
Mia Mia’s mother Cheri O’Connell penned this letter to the Bendigo Advertiser soon after the man who supplies life-saving medical cannabis oil for her daughter Tara, 9, was sentenced to jail in a New South Wales court. Tara has gone from 200 seizures a day to zero…
Today, I sat in a court room waiting to hear whether Tony Bower would be allowed to continue saving our children’s lives.
We knew there was a chance he would be jailed but that reality really never sank in.
Not until the magistrate started talking about how dangerous cannabis is and it causes mental health issues.
Well if he took one look at my child he would see her mental health is a 1000 times on what it was on pharmacy drugs.
I plead to the government DO NOT LET TARA DIE!
We are just parents trying to save our children.
We want like any parent to do what is right for our children.
I plead to you let me talk in parliament, meet my child who is alive today due to the bravery of Tony Bower.
I would like the opportunity to share our story with the Prime Minister and the Federal Health Minister.
We will fight to the end but sadly it seems that end will come when Tony is jailed.
Our child was already givena life sentence when diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome. Whether Tara lives a day a month or a year once Mullaways is no longer available, but we will keep fighting.
We will not ever use pharmacy drugs again.
We will be forever grateful for the time Mullaways have given us with our child.
When she finally does pass (if she has no access to tincture) we will be left with the sad reality that our own government killed her.
And for this I would pursue to the top.
We would not deny a diabetic insulin but everyday the government denies my child access to life saving treatment that is simply helping her body with something it isn’t able to do itself.
SAVE MY CHILD AND EVERY OTHER ONE LIKE HER!
Signed with a heavy heart
Mother to Tara and Sean (and jasmine) and Mia Mia