The NSW Government has announced trials of medical cannabis as a new survey shows nine out of ten Australians support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes.
Premier Mike Baird said Epidiolex will start to be prescribed to children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy in 2016 as part of a $9 million series of trials.
The drug contains the cannabinoid cannibidivarin, a compound that has anticonvulsant properties but does not produce psychoactive effects usually associated with herbal cannabis.
The government will partner with British based company GW Pharmaceuticals to facilitate the testing which will be undertaken at the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network.
The announcement comes as a Roy Morgan research poll revealed widespread support for medical cannabis.
Asked the question, ‘In your opinion should the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes be made legal or remain illegal?’ a staggering 92 per cent of women and 90 per cent of men responded that yes, it should be made legal.
The strongest support for legalisation came from the 50-plus age group: 94 per cent of Australians aged 50-64 and 94 per cent of those aged 65 and older believe medicinal marijuana should be legalised.
Least likely to support the idea is the 14-24 year-old age bracket, but even so, an overwhelming majority (85 per cent) are in favour.
Meanwhile, the NSW government said a number of clinical trials that are due to begin next year were aimed at finding new treatments for children with severe epilepsy.
Participants have not yet been selected but if the cannabinoid-based medicines prove effective, it’s hoped they will be approved and available statewide.
Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said the NSW trials would do nothing to reduce the pressure on regular cannabis users.
‘It’s nothing to do with the real issue. There are thousands of people of people who use cannabis as a medicine and they will still be targeted by police,’ he said.
Mr Balderstone said many parents with children suffering from epilepsy would be hesitant to take part in trials because they would not want their children subjected to a placebo.
‘Every seizure can result in brain damage,’ he said.
He said the fear that medical cannabis would be handed over to Big Pharma had been been realised.