Dan Haslam, a young man with cancer who became the public face of the campaign to legalise medical marijuana and changed Australian politics in the process, has died. He was 25.
Haslam died at home in Tamworth yesterday, surrounded by family and friends, after surviving for five years with terminal bowel cancer.
Last year NSW premier Mike Baird announced clinical trials into the use of medical cannabis following lobbying from Haslam and his family.
The Premier also directed police to not prosecute terminally ill people using the illegal drug.
Baird paid tribute to Haslam on news of his death saying “I was struck by Dan’s conviction and bravery from the moment I met him”.
“His determination, not just to beat his disease, but also to make a difference for others, is an inspiration to all, and certainly was to me. I will never forget the look in his eyes the first time I met him and it will stay with me forever.”
Haslam’s campaign continued to gather momentum last year, especially when the state and federal governments signed an agreement in October that saw NSW take the lead on medical cannabis research. Victoria is hoping to legalise medical cannabis by the end of the year.
NSW is currently running three medical trials involving adults with terminal illness, patients with nausea from chemotherapy, and children with severe epilepsy.
Baird was deeply moved by Haslam, whom he met in July last year. The Southern Cross University student was just 20 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colo-rectal cancer. A friend suggested he use cannabis to treat his nausea and pain when he was struggling with the side effects of the opiates traditionally used.
To the surprise of the fiercely anti-drugs family, they found it worked. A campaign to allow him to legally use cannabis included a petition signed by more than 195,000 people, which was presented to the premier last year.
Haslam’s campaign received support from some unlikely sources. His father, Lou, was a former drug squad policeman with 35 years in the force. Local Nationals MP Kevin Andrew also came out in support of the family and a change to the laws.
His mother Lucy told ABC Radio today that Dan became a champion for the many who felt they couldn’t speak out in support of medical cannabis and had helped thousands of people.
“He was very easy to love, I don’t think he had any enemies,” she said.
Three weeks ago, the NSW government granted Haslam just the second licence to use medical marijuana under its Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme, which protects licence holders from prosecution for possessing up to 15 grams of cannabis leaf, 2.5g of resin or 1g of cannabis oil.
His parents also received licences to protect them from prosecution for possession of their son’s cannabis.
So far 11 people have applied to the Premier’s Department for licences.
He went to Oxley High School in Tamworth before his university studies in sports science in Lismore were delayed by his illness. He met his future wife Alyce at university and the pair became engaged in 2011 and married in 2013.
Dan Haslam is survived by his wife Alyce, parents Lucy and Lou, and brothers Billy and Luke.
A public memorial for him is planned in Tamworth next week.
Here is NSW premier Mike Baird’s statement on his death.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Dan Haslam.
I was struck by Dan’s conviction and bravery from the moment I met him.
His determination, not just to beat his disease, but also to make a difference for others, is an inspiration to all, and certainly was to me.
I will never forget the look in his eyes the first time I met him and it will stay with me forever.
Dan made a lasting impression on everyone he met, but, more than that, he left a legacy in NSW that will be felt across the nation, and I believe the world.
Every step we take on medical cannabis will be built on the footsteps he left behind.
My thoughts at this sad time are with Dan’s parents Lucy and Lou, his wife Alyce and his brothers Billy and Luke, as well as his many friends.
RIP Dan, we will all miss you.
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