A police raid on an altruistic supplier of medicinal cannabis has devastated and outraged Towradgi man Ben Oakley, who credits the illegal operation with giving him his life back.
SUFFERING: Ben Oakley is supported by his father Michael in this May, 2015 photo. He credits cannabis oil with easing his suffering and allowing him to live more independently.
Police raided the north Adelaide home of 44-year-old Jenny Hallam on Wednesday morning, seizing products and equipment and cutting off a supply said to benefit hundreds of sick and terminally ill people Australia-wide.
Mr Oakley says he has been receiving cannabis oil free of charge from Ms Hallam for more than a year. He and his father Michael have vowed to stand by Ms Hallam and campaign on her behalf.
“Jenny has become family to us and we love her dearly,” Ben Oakley said.
"We have to make sure she doesn’t suffer for this. She’s only been doing what the government should have been doing.”
The Oakleys have been vocal campaigners for medicinal cannabis, citing its effect on Ben's rare and debilitating condition. A daily dose has helped Ben, 20, withstand chronic pain caused by stiff person syndrome, and has stopped the life-threatening body spasms he once endured.
Before using the oil, Ben claims he suffered more than 600 spasms in four years, including some lasting up to two hours. He reports only three spasms, lasting no more than 20 seconds, since using the oil.
Ben estimates he has enough oil left to last him up to five and a half months.
He believes Wednesday’s raid will drive many to “charlatan” suppliers trading oil of a questionable quality for profit on the black market.
He is defiant at the prospect of falling foul of the law and believes the outcry brought on by Wednesday’s raid could ultimately aid the campaign to see medicinal cannabis made legally and easily attainable.
“If we are going to get charged, the only thing I can say is ‘bring it’, because the storm that is brewing at the moment is nothing in comparison to what it could be,” he said. “If we need to ramp it up, we will.”
From November, changes to federal legislation allowed for the cultivation of cannabis, but its supply on medical grounds remains so restrictive “it might as well be illegal”, according Ben, who is awaiting placement on a NSW Government-approved trial. Accruing the necessary paperwork and documentation required for the trial is expected to take at least six months.
Michael Oakley said the government had effectively legalised the drug, “then put a nice big glass barrier up so no one could get it”.
“I will be watching my son deteriorate to the point of probably death if something doesn’t change,” he said. “I feel as though the government has held a gun to my son’s head.”
Speaking via social media, Ms Hallam told her supporters she was frustrated and worried about the people “that will have to go without medicine” as a result of the raid.
“This is my biggest concern … what will happen to everyone now?” she said.
“This government tells us it’s coming. Then why not give amnesty to those using it? And why not support those of us making it until another supply comes through. They could support us. Test our oils. Check for safety and consistency. But instead they target us.”