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On May 15th 2013 the much awaited NSW upper house report was released. The report was unanimous in finding that there is a large pain and suffering burden on the population, not adequately addressed by current therapeutic agents.


However, due to vague concerns over long term use, the report recommends access to legal medical cannabis only for people with terminal illnesses or AIDS. These people will have legal indemnity from prosecution for the possession of 15 grams of herbal cannabis.


A nominated carer will also be covered but only for 15gm total. To gain this concession the patient and carer must provide photo ID to the police station. There is no provision for cultivation or any form of legal supply.


If the intention of the parliamentary committee was to demonstrate their commitment, as dedicated public servants and caring citizens, to best practice in social policy, then they have failed very badly in that endeavour. For a medical cannabis patient with a serious illness 15gm would last about five days, or less if it is of inferior quality.

Therefore, the patient or their carer would have to interact with the criminal underworld more than weekly, to obtain an exorbitantly expensive product of questionable quality. It would make far more sense for the patient to have access to at least 300gm, to assure constant supply of reasonable quality, as well as substantial unit price reduction. Better still, if this were supplied by a registered grower with expertise in the production of medical grade, as opposed to black market cannabis.


By recognising the efficacy of and great need for medical cannabis, but creating no legal supply, the committee has handed criminals the right to enrich themselves at the expense of the sick and dying.

At the glacial pace of the NSW government, these recommendations will not be responded to, let alone acted upon, until the end of the year.


After having found that the medical use of cannabis is capable of relieving currently unrelieved pain and suffering, delaying action to supply such cannabis amounts to torture of a most vulnerable section of the community.

The committee gave unreserved support for the development of pharmaceutical products based on cannabis, but noted that this could be many years away. This is cold comfort for people currently afflicted.

GW Pharmaceuticals have produced a cannabis aerosol spray, but its licensing is restricted and its cost prohibitive. Many patients and their carers feel that after decades of irrational opposition to cannabis medicines the pharmaceutical companies should not be handed a carte blanche to create inflated profits at their expense.


The committee entirely failed to view Australia’s backward position in the context of advances in cannabis policy elsewhere. Under new legislation around the world, hundreds of millions of people now have access to safe, effective, affordable medicine as herbal or infused products, but none currently in Australia.

The greatest failing of the committee was to restrict the scope of the medical uses of cannabis to terminal illness. Evidence was given of Crohn’s disease sufferers, for years resistant to many treatments, finding relief within days of starting cannabis therapy.


Mr Tony Bower outlined his use of tincture for the control of intractable epilepsy in Dravet’s syndrome, where the medicine is literally life saving, but these patients are to be denied benefit under the committee’s findings, with no credible explanation from the parliamentarians who are supposed to represent their interests.


Finally, despite a direct request, the committee entirely failed to take up the unique issue of cannabidiol (CBD). This is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid which blocks the psychotropic effects of THC, while exhibiting superior medical qualities as a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-neoplastic agent. CBD is amongst the least toxic of pharmaceutically active agents with an impeccable safety record.

It has been demonstrated to control psychotic episodes as effectively as modern agents, but is free of the problematic side effects. Despite the disappointment felt over this current betrayal medical cannabis patients and their activist carers will continue their efforts to rationalise policy to make safe, effective medicines available to all those in need.





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