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High hopes for medical cannabis

Australians and Israelis were among the experts attending an important forum last week in Sydney about medical cannabis regulation. EXPERTS from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, Netherlands and Canada gathered in Sydney last week for a three-day forum to discuss the regulation and administration of medical cannabis. It was convened by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane, who accompanied then-premier Mike Baird on his trade mission to Israel in April 2016. “Medical cannabis was one of the things that we discussed in Israel,” O’Kane told The AJN. “We were developing our work on it here at that time, and we were very interested to learn that Israel was completely revamping its system.” Representing Israel at the forum was Associate Medical Director General to the Israeli Ministry of Health, Professor Arnon Afek, who told The AJN that Israeli doctors and scientists have been working for three years to formulate methodology that will allow the safe manufacture of medicinal cannabis products. “We want to share this knowledge with our Australian friends and collaborate on this very important matter,” Afek said. O’Kane said that she was impressed with the work that the Israelis are doing on how cannabis can be used for specific illnesses such as childhood epilepsy and cancer, and what compounds and dosages might be used in each instance. “We’ve had productive discussions over the last year with our Israeli colleagues,” O’Kane said. “This week, those conversations have reached a new level at the forum. We discussed in great detail with several countries a variety of perspectives and we all found it very helpful.” A Hebrew University team is currently working on The Green Book, which will lay out standard clinical practice for the administration of medicinal cannabis.

Professor Arnon Afek represented Israel at the forum. “One of the innovations we’ve been working on is different types of inhalers, so that cannabis can be administered without the need to smoke,” Afek said. “The most important thing we’ve learned from Australia is the importance of sharing knowledge.” Afek has high praise for O’Kane and NSW Health Minster Brad Hazzard for attending the forum and confirming that Australia is taking education about medical cannabis seriously. “The fact that the NSW health minister came to the conference is something that countries can learn from,” Afek said. “Politicians are responsible for policy, so them being present is important to drive the system forward.” Afek said that the forum was a positive collaboration and a worthwhile exercise in data sharing between countries, adding that it was “an honour and a pleasure” to be in Sydney. “The forum was a really great thing and I think that I was particularly impressed with the Israeli delegation and with their determination to continue the conversation and hold another forum,” O’Kane added. “I was grateful for them and their contributions, which were fantastic.”

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