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Editorial: Don’t force ill patients to become ‘criminals’

Cannabis oil does not make patients high in any way, its users say. SOUTH Australia is caught in its own version of Reefer Madness.

It’s simply wrong that dying and seriously ill patients are being denied a natural product – cannabis oil – which they say is the only drug that eases their agony.

Instead they are being forced to use pharmaceutical drugs which are expensive, in many cases not as effective, and carry the risk of serious side-effects including addiction. This week’s police raid on Hillier woman Jenny Hallam – who admits producing cannabis oil with donated marijuana and distributing it free-of-charge to fellow patients struggling with serious illness – highlights how slowly our politicians are moving on this issue. It also spotlights the plight of patients such as Tom – who shared his story in today’s paper (see the news section) – and how they are being forced to risk being arrested or ripped off on the black market just to obtain relief from their symptoms. As Tom says, the cannabis oil he uses does not make him high in any way – but it almost instantly takes away the constant discomfort he has endured for years, allows him to sleep again and means he has cut down on his prescribed pain medication. Our MPs, state and federal, should realise that the public’s attitude towards medicinal cannabis has substantially shifted. Last year’s Sunday Mail Your Say, SA survey found more than 83 per cent of respondents support the commercial growing of marijuana for controlled medical purposes. In the 1980s and ’90s, SA was known as the “cannabis state” due to laws now seen as overly permissive. However, it is arguable that in the “tough on crime” Rann era the pendulum swung back too far the other way – and now it seems our risk-averse politicians are too fearful of being labelled “soft on drugs” to capitalise on the potential economic windfall a homegrown medical cannabis industry could provide. In the United States, medical marijuana is now legal in a majority of states, including conservative bastions such as Arkansas and Montana. Seven US states have legalised marijuana for recreational use – and yet at America’s federal level it remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is supposedly more dangerous than crystal meth and cocaine. Australia’s laws must not get caught in the same absurd situation. While a federal law change late last year paved the way for individual states to permit doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis under rigid conditions, for many patients their only option right now is to source it illegally. This is not good enough and our politicians must move quickly to ensure a unified, progressive approach on this issue.

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