A ‘huge group’ of cannabis growers is vowing to push ahead with making medicinal cannabis products and opening dispensaries while urging governments to ‘catch up’.
The growers say the trials proposed by the NSW government are a waste of time as successful trials had already been conducted in countries such as the United States, Canada and Israel.
Echonetdaily spoke with a number of growers at a medicinal cannabis workshop held in Nimbin at the weekend, which packed out the town hall.
A Nimbin businessman, who goes by the moniker Goddess of the Holy Smoke, said the workshop was proof that there was a growing demand for medicinal cannabis products to treat various illnesses.
‘I can speak for a huge group of healers from across the country who have been using cannabis for healing for many years, making tinctures and medicines,’ he said.
‘It blows me out just how many of them there are and when you call a meeting it blows me out just how many turn up.
‘The government really has to catch up. They say: ‘We’re going to distribute licenses but we need to talk about it and we need to do studies which could take up to five years.
‘But we’ve been doing it for 50 years and it’s a very ancient thing that we’ve been doing. We know how it works. The government doesn’t, so the government is the problem, not the solution.
‘If they want to catch up, good luck to them. But we’re going ahead and we’re doing it anyway.
‘Look around. There’s hundreds of people making it and using it and they’re not going to stop.’
Another grower, who has spent time in maximum-security jails for distributing cannabis, said he felt vindicated by the shift in public opinion towards medicinal cannabis.
‘It’s only ever been medicinal,’ he said.
‘I’ve never in my entire life flogged pot. I’ve never gone up to someone and tried to sell them buds to smoke but I’ve responded to requests and on the basis of that it expanded to the point where it was huge.
‘I had to employ people to make runs up and down the coast and interstate responding to demand.
Asked how much was being supplied each day, the grower said: ‘If I drove to Brisbane with less than two kilos I’d be ashamed of myself because there would be someone missing out’.
‘It was mostly raw product but people were asking me about all sorts of things so I experimented with tinctures and oils,’ he said.
‘The bottom line is that people need it. There is an endless demand.’
‘You see them pulling up here in Nimbin and in the past it was young hippies after smoko but now you see old people on Zimmer frames, nervous and out of their comfort zones, looking for medicine.
The grower said there had been a radical shift in attitude.
‘I saw a bumper sticker in Byron Bay that said all truth passes through three stages.
‘First it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, and three, it is accepted as self-evident.
‘When you get to stage three everyone feels relief and vindicated but we’re not quite there yet.’
He dismissed suggestions that cannabis was dangerous.
‘I’ve been consuming it in gobsmacking amounts for over 40 years trying to overdose on it so you’d think it would start to show some symptoms by now but I’m fitter and healthier than most people my age.’
Meanwhile, the NSW Labor leader Greg Foley has called for a more ambitious approach than the government’s planned $9 million trial for medicinal cannabis.
Mr Foley said he wanted the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act changed ‘as a matter of urgency’ in the first sitting week of parliament after the March state election.
He said if a state trial on medicinal cannabis were to take place, ‘it should be far quicker than what’s envisaged in NSW’.
‘I think we can go forward without a trial, personally,’ Mr Foley added.
The trial, announced by the NSW government in December, will first have to overcome logistical hurdles in importing medical cannabis from Europe or the US.
If permission is denied, the government has indicated it could grow its own cannabis crop, although growers in Nimbin on Saturday were adamant that their expertise should be utilized.
Premier Mike Baird has previously stressed that the drug remains illegal.
Prime minister Tony Abbott has already thrown his support behind state-based trials of the drug, saying in December it was ‘more state law than federal laws that govern this’.
‘We have already got medicinal marijuana that has been approved for use under certain circumstances under the federal regulator,’ he said.
‘NSW wants to put a practical trial in place. I’ve supported this all along.’
Despite that support, many users of medicinal cannabis say they are struggling to find reliable suppliers.
A woman who described herself as a ‘Christian woman from a country area’ said the stigma associated with cannabis meant it was difficult for people who had no previous experience with the plant.
She said her sick son found relief from cannabis products but it was not something she felt comfortable telling her friends about .
‘We need to find a regular supplier but it’s hard to know who you can trust,’ she said.
Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone, who helped organize the workshop on Saturday, described the turn-out as ‘fantastic’.
‘We are receiving thousands of calls at the Embassy from across Australia from people who are searching for this medicine,’ he said.
‘The government needs to call an amnesty so that growers can continue to deliver what these people need,’ he said.