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Byron Shire
October 18, 2021

Medical cannabis trials draw mixed reaction

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Staff reporters and AAP

North coast medicinal-cannabis advocate Tony Bower says giving police discretionary powers over who can or cannot use medical marijuana is ‘silly’ and raises ‘a moral dilemma’.

The NSW government yesterday announced that it would immediately fund three clinical trials on the use of the drug for pain relief, but under the new guidelines, police will have discretion to not charge terminally-ill cannabis users and their carers.

Mr Bower, who was jailed last year for growing cannabis from which he made medicinal-cannabis tincture which he gave to people with debilitating illness or terminally ill, slammed yesterday’s announcement as ‘baffling’.

Mr Bower told the ABC that giving police the right to discern who does or doesn’t get charged for using medicinal cannabis raised a moral dilemma.

He said the government had not put much thought into the issue.

‘When have the police of all of a sudden become our doctors?’ Mr Bowers, who successfully appealed in October against a 12-month jail sentence for growing cannabis plants for his medicinal tincture, said.

Mr Bower, whose company Mullaways Medical Cannabis has in the past 12 years supplied tincture to more than 150 people, many of them children, was arrested this year for cultivating plants while still on a good behaviour bond from the District Court for a previous cultivation offence.

The medical-cannabis trials are set to get underway in NSW this week but it could take years before it’s approved for mainstream use.

The $9 million trials will be conducted on children with severe epilepsy, terminally ill adults and those undergoing chemotherapy.

Two of the trials will be undertaken at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital.

But while hundreds of patients will be accepted into the program, those who miss out could face a lengthy wait to experience any therapeutic benefits.

‘Medical cannabis’ time has come,’ Premier Mike Baird told reporters.

‘We need to get the research in place, we need to get the scientific evidence in place, we need to get the medical evidence in place and once we have that we can work out how we can make a difference to thousands of people,’ he said.

Health minister Jillian Skinner said it could take years for the trials to be approved for mainstream use.

‘Clinical trials have to go through very rigorous ethics standards, controls have to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association, which is a Commonwealth body, so it could take months if not years,’ Ms Skinner said.

And new guidelines have been given to police who now have the discretion to look the other way with terminally-ill cannabis users and their carers.

An expert panel led by NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant has been established.

The head of the epilepsy program at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Dr Deepak Gill, and child neurology epilepsy specialist Dr John Lawson from Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and their teams will also be involved in the trial.

But deputy opposition leader Adam Searle said the trials are moving too slowly and the new police guidelines are creating grey areas in the law.

‘The terminally ill have little to look forward to from these clinical trials, which could take years that many people simply do not have to wait,’ Mr Seale said.

Before the trials can get underway the NSW government has to overcome logistical hurdles in importing medical cannabis products from Europe or the US.

Approval for the importation of the products may take several weeks, but if permission is denied the NSW government has indicated it could grow its own cannabis crop.

The government could also outsource the task to the private sector.

Supply and distribution protocols will be established for each trial and Mr Baird stressed that the drug remains illegal.

‘The government will continue to reinforce the message that recreational use of cannabis is illegal and will not be tolerated,’ Mr Baird said.

Australian Medical Association NSW president Saxon Smith welcomed the trials.

‘This will allow sick people access to medicine that is being tested and examined for efficacy – potentially improving their lives in the short-term and providing evidence to help the wider population in the longer term,’ Dr Smith said.

Abbott supports trial

Prime minister Tony Abbott supports the NSW trial for medicinal cannabis but has dodged suggestions a national experiment should happen.

Mr Abbott said the federal regulator had already approved medicinal marijuana for use under certain circumstances.

Asked whether a federal trial would happen, Mr Abbott indicated the need to wait and see what happened with NSW.

‘In the end, it is more state law than federal laws that govern this,’ he told the Seven Network.

Fairfax Media reported that the NSW government expects to find out in the next few weeks if it will be able to import cannabis to be used in the trials, or if it will have to grow the marijuana itself.

To procure the cannabis for the trials, the government will first attempt to negotiate an import arrangement with the federal government.

‘If we need to deal with the supply ourselves, we are ready to go in relation to that, but we need to decide whether it can be imported. I expect that, in coming weeks, to be resolved.’

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  1. I have no problem with the trial of cannabis for medical use.

    However, it must be correctly carried out scientifically by professionals and not some self proclaimed person.
    The growing of cannabis for the trials will have to be supervised, again by professionals such as DPI agronomists and not some backyard grower.

    On completion of the trials it will then be up to Governments to licence growers so quality control can be monitored. Growers will have to undergo Police checks to ensure the growers are not criminals. I believe this happens with the farmers that grow poppy crops in Tasmania.

    Then non licenced growers will not have any reason to grow it as it will be available via a medical source.

  2. It’s a weed for crying out loud! Let people just grow their own and use it if they wont to, surely the police and government must realise million upon millions pf people world wide have been doing so for ALONG time with no incidents. What is wrong with using nature?

  3. Isn’t it amazing that in this day & age people, totally unqualified are linked to a medical/legal power grab when health and lives are involved. I remember 35 years ago driving in France past broadacre hemp fields used for fabric & rope while in Germany tests had been trialling for medicinal for years. Why are we so parochial, triple fronted brick veneer quarter acre block with frightened mentality and woe betide anyone with the guts to question. One could say its denying a human right to withhold a possible cure to severe illness, yet we can’t decide for ourselves that same fate.

  4. This is about health and has nothing to do with police. I am glad at least LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) understands the truth over long standing lies.
    The law is the crime, set in place for opposition profits. This herb plant has many benefits, shown already by a huge body of research & positive results overseas.
    Baird & the politicians are ignorant or bought off, if not both. Idiots! This plan of do nothing & waiting for a long time still, will cause a great deal of unneeded suffering and death to protect the opposition profits, especially for Big Pharma.
    Big Pharma products kill into the millions of people every year world wide, after such “research”..Cannabis has never killed anyone from direct use, ANY YEAR, and is researched constantly, showing amazing benefits. It has to do with our Endocannabinoid systems, that all mammals have. This plant boosts that, including immunity. Its in mother’s baby milk, naturally!

    At least Tony helps people rather than hurt..thank you Tony..in a sea of gross ignorance & bought offs.

    The tide of truth is changing things overseas rapidly now, and there is no reason to wait. Police should have a lot better things to do, damn fools! Dangerous drug not! They are the real danger..imposed. Whats legal is really dangerous..crazy as! We don’t need to be so slow and backward. Don’t fear the actual truth, eh?

    In the US, here’s a few stats to show facts of 2013..prescript big pharma..237, 485 + 5,000 car crash dead..Tobacco..390.323 dead..Alcohol..88,013 + 16,000 car crash dead…Cocaine..4,906 dead…Heroin..3,365 dead…Aspirin..466 dead…Tylenol..179 dead..Cannabis..0 dead…ANY YEAR.
    Another rising killer is Meth/ice..stats are accumulating, very dangerous, especially with booze.

    Hey Baird, political crew & police..wake up & start helping rather than hurting people, now! This plant is very different to anything else or what you have been led to think. Look at existing research & results overseas.

    We really do need informed dispensaries, who can target specific strains for specific purposes, all use. That ends a lot of alcohol violence, not that alcohol drug dealers like the profit loss, with a far safer choice available. The evidence is in overseas.

    The prohibition is an expensive failure. Above ground & in control is a lot better than underground and not, for both health and state costs. Above ground limits use of the young to specific illness. Underground dealers do not check id, and prohibition is the direct cause of grow chemical laced hydro.
    Grow your own for little cost..not that big pharma likes that profit loss either! Sales put cash into the state, rather than suffer huge wasted cost for no change in use.
    Put it to a vote! Put people before status quo profits. A big Duh!

  5. I’m terminally ill and don’t know how long I have, so if there is chance of a better life with this disease or a possible cure, LET IT BE. Give us a bit of relief no matter how big or small, we at least deserve that and time is not on my side so I have no time to wait.

    Thank You

  6. Just give up already dogs. People are going to smoke and use pot regardless of the legality. Just give up. When will the Government wake up, we WILL NOT be told what we can and cannot put into our bodies.

  7. People in the northern rivers have been “trialling” cannabis for over 40 years. Why isn’t their work, health, criminal record, anecdotal evidence and cultivation skills relevant in any discussion of long term use of the hemp herb. Experts could also travel to India where cannabis has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years – and purchase samples from Government Ganja shops outside the temples.

    Police involvement in the drug trade has been far from “ethical” and I think it’s time recreational users were also allowed to make informed, responsible decisions about their preferred drug use.


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