THE snowball has become an avalanche in a Tamworth family’s push to decriminalise medical marijuana, with close to 15,000 extra petition signatures being added in an extraordinary 48-hour period.
Lucy and Lou Haslam are spearheading a push to legalise cannabis for
terminally ill patients after seeing a dramatic turnaround in their 24-year-old son Dan, who has terminal bowel cancer and started using the herb to deal with crippling nausea and a loss of appetite from chemotherapy.
The family’s crusade was featured on national current affairs program The Project on Tuesday night, sparking a deluge of support.
A petition, to be tabled in state parliament next month, had garnered more than 20,000 signatures as of Thursday night – up from 7500 before the story was aired.
An emotional Mrs Haslam said she was “stunned” by the thousands of signatures and hundreds of stories the family had received since it went public.
But she remained deeply critical of NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, who this week reiterated her opposition to decriminalising cannabis for the dying.
“She really has to get it in perspective. She’s still putting out the same old arguments,” Mrs Haslam said.
Mrs Skinner this week said the lack of scientific evidence around the potential damage caused by cannabis use on terminally ill patients meant the government could not support decriminalisation.
She also claimed there were “safe and effective medications currently available for most of the symptoms and conditions that medicinal cannabis is purported to be effective in treating”.
Her comments come despite a state upper house committee last year giving bi-partisan support to decriminalising cannabis in certain cases.
Local Nationals MLC Trevor Kahn, who sat on the committee, defied his own government’s line, yesterday saying it “lacked credibility”.
“When you’re talking about people who are dying, the issues the Department of Health raised, like the risk of lung cancer, really lacked credibility,” Mr Kahn said.
“The long-term effects of smoking are hardly relevant to someone with lung cancer.
“There was clearly evidence from professors of medicine that cannabis had a role to play in some circumstances.
“The evidence was clear and compelling that in limited circumstances, the medicinal benefits of cannabis could not be replicated by other drugs.
“Dan clearly falls into that group.”
Greens MLC John Kaye will retable a bill to decriminalise cannabis for terminally ill patients in the state parliament in late May.