The NSW Government will hold a clinical trial of medical cannabis, with Premier Mike Baird swayed by the plight of a 24-year-old cancer sufferer who uses the drug and the surprise advocacy of a Nationals MP.
The Premier announced today that a government group will report back before the end of the year on the terms of reference for the trial, which could go ahead next year. They will also explore how to provide the safest and most effective cannabis-based products.
“There are concerns around the issues of supply and distribution and these will be covered in the trial,” Baird said. “I hope the trial will bring some clarity to this area and enhance our understanding of the medical use of cannabis.”
The announcement is a triumph for the Tamworth-based family of Daniel Haslam, 24, who has colo-rectal cancer and uses cannabis to alleviate his symptoms. A campaign to allow him to legally use the drug collected more than 195,000 signatures and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has been a strong advocate for the family.
As his Haslam’s mother, Lucy, explains on their campaign website, Dan’s Story “We are just an ordinary family in an unenviable position. I know that people will judge us, but as a parent, I would like to put forward the reasons why I feel the decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis should be revisited by our State and Federal Government.”
Haslam’s father was a policeman for 35 years, including time in the drug squad.
“We raised our three sons to believe that recreational drug use is harmful in every way and I stand by that belief today,” Lucy Haslam says.
“Dan did not just blindly start using cannabis. He is a sensible and intelligent young man. He and I began to research the use of medicinal cannabis… we discovered that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that cannabis oil is useful as a treatment for advanced cancer.
“Many will say that this is ‘clutching at straws’ but if it provides hope and medical science is not offering much else what have we got to lose? I am firmly guided by my conscience and will support him with all my might.”
The move comes in the wake of a NSW Parliamentary enquiry into the use of medicinal cannabis last year and recommended decriminalisation.
The move was initially dismissed by health minister Jillian Skinner – who at one stage told Haslam he shouldn’t smoke cannabis because it would “give him cancer” – but she has subsequently softened her position.
The Premier paid tribute to the Haslam family.
“I was struck by the courage and determination of the Haslam family when I met with them and have enormous sympathy for the battle Dan faces every day,” Mr Baird said. “What we want to do is improve his quality of life and for people like him, and I hope this reform does just that.”
He added that in the meantime, NSW Police guidelines will be amended to formalise the current discretion given to police to not charge terminally ill adults who use cannabis to alleviate symptoms, or their carers. It will be similar to the Cannabis Cautioning Scheme, which allows police to caution but not charge adults for personal use.
“By formalising existing NSW Police discretion when dealing with a terminally ill patient using cannabis, and their carers, we hope to lighten the burden of stress for sufferers and their carers,” Baird said. “We want the terminally ill to have greater peace of mind.”
The NSW Government will also begin discussions with other Australian jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth, to place the use of medical cannabis on the national research agenda. Next week, the Victorian Government is considering a bill to make it easier to conduct medical cannabis clinical trials.
A number of international regions have approved cannabis for medical purposes, including 23 US States, the Netherlands, Canada and Israel.
The Premier said that marijuana will not be decriminalised.
“These reforms are about compassionate care. Recreational use of drugs is illegal and will not be tolerated,” he said.
— Mike Baird (@mikebairdMP) September 16, 2014
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