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It’s time for action on medical cannabis

When the state government signed its memorandum of understanding with the NSW government in late 2015 for a medicinal cannabis trial, people who had been waiting years for such an initiative suddenly became very excited. And rightfully so. The potential medicinal benefits of marijuana have been widely published for years, including helping fight glaucoma and controlling epileptic seizures. Unfortunately, a year on, those spinning wheels of progress have slowed quite dramatically. Not unsurprisingly, the state Opposition and the Greens came out and slammed the government over its seeming inaction. But that criticism is quite disingenuous. Labor’s health spokeswoman Lara Giddings had more than a decade in government, and as Premier, to move on implementing a medicinal cannabis trial and did nothing. The Greens were in a power-sharing arrangement with Labor for some of that time, and did nothing. So let’s ignore those ramblings for a moment and concentrate on what’s more important – the current one-year impasse in getting those people in desperate need of the benefits of medicinal cannabis into a meaningful medical trial. It was disappointing to read, then, that no Tasmanians had been invited to take part in two clinical trials for adult cancer patients currently underway in NSW. A NSW government spokesperson told media this week that all the recruits for those trials would be sourced from within NSW, leaving potential Tasmanian recruits out in the cold. There is hope on the horizon, however, with a Tasmanian scheme due to open this year. But for many people, that wait has already been far too long despite the promises of prescribed medicinal cannabis products. The biggest fear is these people, many of them desperate who have been waiting for access, may have already looked elsewhere for help and suitable pain treatment. Many often turn to less-than-reputable sources, including the internet and the black market for help. Despite all the talk of trials, the fact is nothing of any substance has happened. We’re still no closer to being part of a peer-reviewed trial of medicinal cannabis than we were a year ago. It’s time to get moving.

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