We have to re-think medicinal cannabis

IMAGINE your son or daughter, brother or sister is dying from an incurable terminal cancer and the only treatment offering pain relief and nausea control is medicinal cannabis. This is a rare situation, but that does not mean that we should refuse access to medicinal cannabis in such circumstances. We should allow it to be medically prescribed by specialists and regulated so that those few who need it can be given relief. 

Some other advanced countries, for example Israel, Canada, 20 states in the USA, and much of Northern Europe have long ago accepted the scientific evidence that medicinal cannabis has properties that make it a valuable last resort drug to give chronic pain and nausea relief where nothing else works for some cancer sufferers. It can also be of assistance with some aspects of MS for some sufferers and it can reduce the number and severity of fits that can further disable a child with a particular rare syndrome. 

Medicinal cannabis does not give the same "high" as the illegal street marijuana, which can seriously damage the user's mental health with long term heavy use. Synthetic marijuana is also a dangerous newcomer on the drug market and has recently been the focus of Federal regulation to reduce import access. 

Medicinal cannabis is nothing like this; it is in a very different category. It would never "leak" onto the illegal drug market because it would always be much more expensive. It could be only made available on a medical specialist or expert panel prescription (like so many other pharmaceuticals). We can look to the regulation in, for example Canada, to see best practice. 

I am a co-convener of the by-partisan group of parliamentarians who are trying to tackle the terrible harms from illicit drug use in Australia. This is a serious but separate problem. The use of illegal drugs should not cloud our perspective or our sense of compassion for those who could be treated to help their condition, or who could have their cancer pain and suffering relieved at the end of their life, when all else has failed. 

I have been contacted by a local person describing the cruel suffering of her brother, who could have had some relief if he had been able to access medicinal cannabis in the last 12 months of his life. 

She does not want anyone to ever suffer like that. 

All Australians deserve our compassion. We should take the necessary steps now to regulate and allow the use of medicinal cannabis where it is known to make a difference.

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