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Questions linger over medicinal cannabis clinical trials in Tasmania

A Tasmanian Government spokewoman says Australian medical cannabis products will become available to Tasmanian’s this year. A YEAR-OLD agreement on medicinal cannabis clinical trials, ­research and ­cultivation has so far meant nothing for Tasmanians, say Labor, the Greens and advocates for the illegal pain relief product. In December, 2015, the State Government signed a memorandum of understanding with then New South Wales premier Mike Baird, which covered clinical trials, ­research and ­cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. The agreement was seen as the next step towards giving Tasman­ians legal access to medicinal cannabis, after Tasmania agreed to participate in the NSW trials. Health Minister Michael Ferguson said this week the Tasmanian and NSW governments “continue to work closely together on this issue.” Despite the resignation of NSW Premier Mike Baird, that state has moved ahead with two clinical trials for adult cancer patients and the Mercury can reveal no Tasmanians are currently involved. “Both of these trials are in their initial phase and it is expected that the required number of patients will be recruited from within NSW,” a NSW Government spokeswoman said. “If these trials progress to the larger phases, involving many more patients, the possibility of sites in other states will depend on the number of patients required for each study and the number of eligible patients able to be recruited in NSW.” Details of a controlled access scheme to allow Tasmanians with serious medical conditions access to medicinal cannabis products prescribed by a specialist doctor were due to be released by the State Government late last year. But a Government spokeswoman said this week “work is progressing on the controlled access scheme with guidelines to be released later this year”. “It is expected that Australian medical cannabis products will become available this year,” the spokeswoman said. Greens MP Andrea Dawkins said it was deeply disappointing no Tasmanians were involved in the NSW trials. Ms Dawkins said chronically ill Tasmanians were still being exposed to criminal charges. “The only information chronically or terminally ill Tasmanians, who want to use medicinal cannabis without fear of prosecution, have is a fact sheet and government media release,” she said. Labor MP Lara Giddings accused the Government of evading responsibility on the issue. “It’s heartbreaking for those patients out there who want to do the right thing by the law and access it legally and safely. But because of the lack of progress by this government, they are being forced onto the black market in order to keep their children or partner or themselves alive.” Andrew Irving from Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp Tasmania, who cares for his wife Marilyn who suffers from a neurodegenerative condition, said talk on progressing the legalisation of the product was “all smoke and mirrors”. “We are no better off — nothing has changed,” he said.

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