Support for medical cannabis is gathering steam around the country, but is Queensland any closer to legalising it?

Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews yesterday declared that he would push to make medical marijuana legal if he is elected Premier in November.

His timing couldn’t be better, following the public outcry over the weekend when the government demanded to inspect the home of a Victorian couple who have been treating their sick child with cannabis oil.

Rhett Wallace and Cassie Batten have been adding the drug to their three-year-old son Cooper’s milk in order to treat his illnesses, which include epilepsy and brain damage.

While he ruled out legalising marijuana for recreational use, the Victorian opposition leader has said cannabis should be available for people who need treatment in exceptional circumstances, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and Parkinson’s Disease.

“In some cases, parents are forced to choose between breaking the law and watching their child suffer,” Mr Andrews told The Age. “Children are in pain, families are suffering, people are living in fear, and outdated laws are getting in the way.”

The medical marijuana would not be smoked, but rather taken in liquid form, as well as in tablets and sprays.

Support for the legalisation of medical marijuana is gathering momentum around Australia — in New South Wales, legislation may pass as early as next month, and at a federal level, a group of MPs from across the major parties, including Queensland MP Warren Entsch, are working on a bill to legalise cannabis oil for epilepsy sufferers, cancer patients and patients with other life-threatening illnesses.

At a grassroots level, a series of rallies in support of legalising cannabis oil, to be held on September 14, are being organised across the country.

The Queensland Government hasn’t ruled out legalising medical marijuana. When approached for comment, Premier Campbell Newman reiterated his earlier position that the Government will take its cues from the National Health and Medical Research Council [NHMRC].

“I’ve said that I have great sympathy, I think I’ve pretty much echoed what [NSW Premier] Mike Baird has said… but I’d be interested in what the NHMRC are saying,” Mr Newman said last month. “Certainly I’ve got an open mind on these things, is my point, you know, and we should have an open mind. There are so many of our life-saving and pain-alleviating drugs that come from nature, of course they do… but we need to hear what the NHMRC are saying.”

A spokesperson for the NHMRC — Australia’s leading expert body responsible for funding and promoting health and medical research — confirmed that the Council has not yet taken a position on medical marijuana.

“Guidelines for medicinal marijuana have not been developed by NHMRC. However, NHMRC Council includes representation from all states and territories through their Chief Health/Medical Officers and should the Council recommend that guidelines on medicinal use of marijuana be developed, then this would be considered in accordance with our strategic plan.”

Dr Shaun Rudd, AMA (Australian Medical Association) Queensland President, says more evidence is needed before the AMA can support medicinal marijuana.

“While we do not support the use of cannabis recreationally, we recognise there are potential therapeutic uses for cannabinoids. That said, further evidence is needed to consider the safety and efficacy of medical cannabinoids compared to existing medications.

“There are a number of health risks associated with ingesting or smoking a crude plant product. Additional research should consider what the safest, most controlled ways of delivering cannabinoids are.”

Maverick LNP backbencher and Nudgee MP Jason Woodforth, however, is sick of hearing that there isn’t enough evidence to support medical marijuana.

“Every day you hear more stories about medical marijuana, and every day I’m more convinced we’ve fallen behind the rest of the world. Australia has its head in the sand.

“I certainly do support medical marijuana, and that will never change. There’s too much evidence out there from all around the globe. The biggest problem we’ve got here in Australia is that we’re saying there’s not enough evidence. I mean, that’s just wrong! We’ve got one guy, [Mullaways Medical Cannabis owner] Tony Bower, who has 150 kids, mainly epileptics, on this stuff and he has a 98 per cent success rate. And we’re saying there’s not enough evidence?

“What are we waiting to see? What more evidence do we need? It’s ludicrous. We’ve been brought up in a time when it’s illegal, so that’s what we think. It’s been drummed into us that it’s illegal and that it’s bad for you. But we use poppies to make opioids and a whole heap of drugs that are used every single day in our hospital system. Those drugs are so addictive, it’s not funny. People are dying every day from using drugs made from poppies. But do you see anyone standing up against poppy fields down in Tasmania? No.”

Mr Woodforth believes the public is already overwhelmingly in favour of medical marijuana, but advises anyone who’s on the fence to investigate the issue further.

“For those who don’t know how good medicinal marijuana is, I’d just say, do your own research. Don’t be swayed by broad, sweeping statements that are really saying nothing. That’s not a great way to win an argument. Go and do your own research, people. We’ve been hoodwinked by the propaganda that’s been telling us lies.”

The truth about drugs