Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm has called on the federal government to ‘quit dithering’ and cut the red tape preventing thousands of Australians suffering chronic pain from accessing medicinal cannabis.
The senator’s call comes as Nimbin’s HEMP Embassy campaigners are set to descend on Canberra on Monday for the first day of parliament in a protest against ‘the ridiculous restrictions on cannabis use’.
‘With prescription-only rules for codeine coming into effect today, it has now become a matter of urgency that seriously ill patients obtain access to an effective and safe alternative,’ Senator Leyonhjelm said.
‘If the federal government cannot remove the bureaucratic barriers doctors are currently facing when trying to legally administer medicinal cannabis, the black market for products such as codeine-based pain killers will flourish,’ he said.
Senator Leyonhjelm said there was ample evidence to show that state health bureaucrats were forcing doctors to jump through near-impossible hoops to obtain permission to administer cannabis to patients.
‘In NSW, for example, GPs must fill out an onerous pile of paperwork that can take several hours to complete for each and every patient,’ he said.
‘Some NSW GPs say they have been sent letters from NSW Health warning their indemnity insurance may not cover medical cannabis.
‘Even for those GPs dedicated enough to spend this amount of time and energy accessing what has become a legal drug, the process is taking so long their patients are dying before they receive permission to medicate with cannabis.
‘Overseas experience, such as that found in the US, has shown that the prescription of addictive opioids such as codeine has dramatically declined, along with the associated deaths and overdoses, in states where medicinal cannabis is readily available.
‘It’s time for federal and state bureaucrats to get over their blinkered ideological opposition to medical marijuana and put the needs of chronically and terminally ill Australians first,’ Senator Leyonhjelm said.
‘Sanctimonious ‘caution’ and bureaucratic restriction by stealth must no longer stand in the way of compassion and common human decency.’
The senator’s words were echoed by HEMP embassy president Michael Balderstone, who urged locals to join the protest.
‘We welcome anyone who is sick and tired of the ridiculous restrictions on cannabis use to join us,’ Mr Balderstone said.
‘We’ve been saying for decades this is a miracle medicine, and now the evidence is in, but we are hunted the same as ever. Something has to change, and soon.
‘Our health minister Hunt keeps saying it’s legal but the truth is that only applies to people on their death bed – if they’re lucky!
‘How about we try using cannabis before that point? Why don’t we take notice of California and what’s happened there over the last 20 years?’
‘We will not let up on this serious injustice that is based on lies and misinformation which the powers that be now know.
‘The results from legalising cannabis in some American states cannot be ignored forever and in every case they point to a win win for everyone. Except the pharmaceutical industry,’ Mr Balderstone said.