Hi everyone - I just found out about this inquiry. My colleague Kate Seear wrote the below email letting me know about it, which I'm sharing with you all here, as many of you may have experiences you want to share with the committee:
As you might have heard the Commonwealth Senate is holding an inquiry, just announced, into access to medicinal cannabis. This is a growing and very important issue, in my view. I'm writing to bring it to your attention, because I believe you may work on issues that are relevant or related, to encourage you to tell others who might be interested in these issues and encourage you or your organisations to make a submission if you can. The terms of reference are here:
Submissions are due by 17th January 2020.
By way of background and for any who are not familiar, in recent years, cannabis has begun to be legalised for medicinal purposes across Australia. This change has come about in part because of emerging evidence detailing the benefits of medicinal cannabis for certain medical conditions. It may be of benefit for people living with conditions (such as arthritis and intractable seizures), ease the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and it may even shrink cancerous tumours. Research is being done on these issues around the world, including at the Lambert Initiative (LI) at Sydney University. The LI was established by a wealthy family a few years ago, after their granddaughter was diagnosed with a serious medical condition (Dravert syndrome) that led to frequent, catastrophic, life threatening seizures. The Lamberts' son gave the granddaughter medicinal cannabis and the effects were seemingly miraculous, but the son was prosecuted. Evidently the grandparents felt this was a grave injustice, and this sparked their transformational donation. The LI seeks to establish proof of the benefits of medicinal cannabis so that it might become more readily available across Australia.
Medicinal cannabis is available in Victoria, but subject to a strict access scheme. Doctors can prescribe it, but under certain conditions. Importantly, however, the cost of medication is seemingly prohibitive for all but a few members of the community, meaning that although it is technically accessible it is practically not. This has resulted in some people deciding to cultivate their own medicinal cannabis, or to supply it to others on ‘compassionate’ grounds. Several individuals have been prosecuted for this, including parents, friends, carers and doctors. Recent high profile cases including the prosecution and sentencing of South Australian woman Jenny Hallam in November 2019 and the prosecution of Dr Andrew Katelaris in NSW in 2018. Katelaris represented himself and was acquitted.
There are some cases I am aware of with individuals with cancer (including late stage) also being prosecuted.
On 14 November 2019, the Commonwealth Senate agreed to hold an urgent inquiry into access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, seemingly recognising that access issues were associated with some people breaking the law.
If you are interested, I hope you might consider making a submission.