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Launceston family wants medicinal cannabis recognised as legitimate treatment

For the last 12 months Launceston couple Lyn Cleaver and Malcolm Amundsen have been growing cannabis for their son's medicinal use and even though it is illegal, they feel it is the right thing to do.

Jeremy has experienced more control with his seizers and behaviour after using medicinal cannabis for about 12 months: (Supplied: Lyn Cleaver)

"Jeremy has a brilliant quality of life and we've always strived to offer him the best that he can have so that he can be the best that he can be," Ms Cleaver said.

Jeremy takes the medicinal cannabis in an oil form. Ms Cleaver's son Jeremy Bester suffered suspected viral encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, leaving him with permanent brain damage at the age of six. Some of his symptoms include refractory epilepsy, meaning it is difficult to control his seizures with medication, and explosive behaviours. "Jeremy is a bit inclined to fly into rages that he has no control over whatsoever so we've seen him jump out of moving vehicles, we've seen him lash out at us and his support workers," Ms Cleaver said. Jeremy can have 200 to 300 seizures every year and Ms Cleaver said after the prescribed medication often her son could be in a "drug haze" for up to six hours after. "Last year we decided to start cannabis when our neurologist suggested to us we try a sedating type medication for Jeremy on top of his anti-convalescent and we refused that and decided to give cannabis a shot," Ms Cleaver said. Mr Amundsen said the couple decided to grow their own cannabis in order to be able to control the plant to suit their needs. "There's so many different cultivators out there, for us to just wander out and grab the same medicine that Jeremy is on now is near impossible," Mr Amundsen said. Using cannabis was not an easy decision at the beginning, but according to Mr Amundsen, the effects have been worth the trial. "It was a big worry, it's new ground, everything is experimental but there's heaps of information online and a really good backing of people who have used it and their epilepsy's been controlled by it," Mr Amundsen said. "The first night he was on cannabis he actually slept for the first time in 15 years, for the whole night." Even though the family has been using cannabis oil for about a year now, they are still making small adjustments in order to get the dosage to the correct amount for Jeremy. "Since then we've seen control in his seizers, very good control in his behaviours," Mr Amundsen said. Ms Cleaver admits that some people are surprised to hear of the treatment method they use for Jeremy, but after the results they have seen they are sticking by their decision. "Initially some people might be shocked, but when you sit down and explain the science behind around it and how it's benefiting Jeremy, most people are really great about it," Ms Cleaver said. Jeremy is unable to communicate with language and the Launceston couple said watching him almost 24 hours a day can be challenging at times. "Jeremy has a brilliant quality of life and we've always strived to offer him the best that he can have so that he can be the best that he can be," Ms Cleaver said. "Jeremy's had a lot of injuries and illnesses prior to using cannabis but I think it's made us all stronger and Jeremy seems quite happy with his lot in life." Hidden medicinal use of cannabis Ms Cleaver is sure that there are more people using cannabis for medicinal purposes but might be afraid to make it public. "What we've found is that a lot of people are just too fearful of the law to try and gain relief through cannabis so they're suffering because they're afraid," Ms Cleaver said. Mr Amundsen's biggest fear is not breaking the law, but the possibility of losing medication should the police confiscate the cannabis. "The government seems to think because there's only one or two per cent that speak up the government seems to think it's a small thing," Mr Amundsen said. "I would go as far as saying hundreds of thousands using it already and they're just too scared to speak up." Jeremy's medical condition has proved challenging for the family and developed a unique dynamic between the family. All Ms Cleaver wants is to keep her son safe. "We would want Jeremy to be well and healthy, but he's not so we take every measure we can to keep him as safe as we can," Ms Cleaver said.

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