North coast cannabis law-reform campaigners have called for an amnesty on prosecution of people using medicinal cannabis, as the first trials of its use are soon to begin in NSW.
The call follows the NSW government’s announcement yesterday that its long-awaited trial on the medical use of the drug will be carried out a Newcastle hospital early next year.
Nimbin’s Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Embassy says around 100,000 Australians are currently using medical cannabis and they need to be given a legal stay of prosecution or amnesty while the trials are being conducted.
Premier Mike Baird announced the first three trials into medicinal cannabis will be carried out at Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital and involve around 30 adults to see if the drug can alleviate symptoms and pain for terminally ill patients and chronic disease sufferers.
The trial results are expected by the end of next year and will evaluate two types of cannabis products: vaporised leaf cannabis and a synthetic, pharmaceutical one.
HEMP Embassy president Michael Balderstone said politicians were ‘way behind public opinion’ on the issue as thousands of people were using it now.
Mr Balderstone said ‘the horse had well and truly bolted’ on medical cannabis and law-enforcement resources would be better used if they focused on the much more dangerous drug ice instead.
‘But I believe drug use in general is really a health issue,’ he said.
The announcement also comes as a committee of federal politicians made up of Coalition, Labor and cross-bench senators appears set to endorse legislation to legalise medical marijuana.
Spearheaded by Greens leader Richard Di Natale, the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill would make the federal government responsible for overseeing the production, distribution and use of the drug and set up a medical marijuana regulator.
Medical cannabis is currently available in dozens of jurisdictions around the world and more countries are legalising it, as well decriminalising recreational use of the drug.
In the US alone, almost half the states have legalised medical cannabis or in the process of doing so.
And just last week, the legalisation movement gained momentum in Europe with support from hundreds of lawmakers in Italy for a proposal that would largely decriminalise production, distribution, sale and consumption of marijuana throughout the nation.
Cannabis law-reform campaigners say prohibition is proving unnecessary and a huge waste of taxpayer money.
Information on medical cannabis is available at www.medicalmarijuana.com.au.