January trial is a 'small step', say medical cannabis advocates

Lucy Haslam
Lucy Haslam

Medical cannabis campaigners have criticised governments for their approach to a so-called ‘wonder drug’.

Clinical trials of medicinal cannabis will soon begin in NSW, NSW Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward announced clinical trials for up to 250 patients would begin in January.

However, campaigners have called it a small step in a slow and cumbersome process that ignored the urgent needs of patients.

Tamworth medical cannabis crusader Lucy Haslam, who gave her son medicinal cannabis until he died from bowel cancer, said a more compassionate approach would be helpful.

“I’m frustrated with how long this is taking, it’s not really looking after the patients at all,” Mrs Haslam said.

The lack of humanity is shameful, if you let an animal suffer like this you’d be dragged over hot coals.

Lucy Haslam

“I’m contacted every day by people whose loved ones are going through hell and the fact that cannabis is still part of this ‘war on drugs’ is ridiculous.”

Proponents of medicinal cannabis point to a man named Rick Simpson, who claimed to cure himself of cancer with ‘hemp oil’ in 2003, for proof of the drug’s healing properties.

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley, who unveiled the Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis last Thursday, said she believed in the product but not every doctor did, so she wanted to make sure medicinal cannabis went through the same drug testing process as any other drug.

“It’s appropriate to do it as quickly as possible but there’s always the special access scheme for terminally ill patients with no hope for treatment,” Ms Ley said.

Earlier this month Australia’s largest medicinal cannabis grower, backed by BRW rich-lister Barry Lambert, decided to move to the US because of tight legal restrictions.

Mr Lambert made headlines last year when he gave $34 million to Sydney University for research into medicinal cannabis, but he said a federal law that was supposed to legalise medicinal cannabis had so many restrictions that it was practically unworkable. 

No state governments has fully legalised use of medicinal cannabis, although the NSW government’s clinical trials could open the way for certain approved drugs. However, because of Australia's tight laws the cannabis used in the NSW trials on humans has to be imported from Canada and the Netherlands.