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Medicinal cannabis advocates urge government to act

MORE TALK, MORE ACTION: Lyn Cleaver and Malcolm Amundsen want the government to consult with cannabis advocates. MEDICINAL cannabis advocates say they are disappointed by the decision of state leaders to merely note the progress already made in increasing access to the drug at last week’s Council of Australian Governments meeting. East Tamar couple Lyn Cleaver and Malcolm Amundsen, who harvested their flourishing medicinal cannabis crop on Monday, have detailed their frustration at sluggish progress on the legalisation of the product. The pair grow a specific strain of cannabis they carefully process for their 25-year-old son, Jeremy Bester, who suffered a brain injury after contracting encephalitis aged six. After years of trialling different pharmaceutical and dietary measures Ms Cleaver and Mr Amundsen say medicinal cannabis is the best thing for controlling Mr Bester’s severe seizures. As well as easing the severity of Mr Bester’s symptoms, the drug has seen his medications radically reduced. Ms Cleaver said demand for the product was growing as awareness about its benefits spread. “But people are saying to us ‘What is the government doing?’ and we say we don’t know,” Ms Cleaver said. The Council of Australian Governments voted on Friday to “[note] the progress in all jurisdictions to facilitate patient access to medicinal cannabis” and acknowledge the Commonwealth’s move to introduce legislation to establish a national licensing scheme. “Jurisdictions will continue working together to implement the scheme, with a view to Australian-grown products being available for use in 2017,” a report from the meeting read. Premier Will Hodgman said on Monday that Tasmania supported efforts to provide safe access to medicinal cannabis products. The state will cooperate with New South Wales on clinical trials of the drug. “COAG provided for an opportunity to discuss the Federal Government’s legislative changes, which will allow for the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and the next steps in setting up an Australian cultivation industry,” Mr Hodgman said. “It is important that work progresses in a timely way, but also ensures that access is safe and consistent with our international obligations.” Ms Cleaver urged state government representatives to act quickly. “How can they be supporting us because they’re still forcing people to break the law,” she said. “We’re trying to give medicine to very, very ill people, and we’re happy to give that. The stresses around being outside the law is huge for a person who’s not well.”

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