SAY YES, MINISTER
IT WAS the moment one of the state’s most senior government ministers met a fiercely-determined young cancer patient.
When Tamworth’s Dan Haslam learned Health Minister Jillian Skinner was coming to Tamworth to open the North West Cancer Centre earlier this month, he hatched a plan.
Mr Haslam, who is on a high-profile crusade to make cannabis legal for terminally-ill patients, happened to be undergoing chemotherapy on the day the minister toured the centre.
With his mum Lucy in tow, 24-year-old Mr Haslam confronted Mrs Skinner and offered her a copy of “Dan’s Story”, an account of the remarkable turnaround in his symptoms since using medicinal marijuana.
“I know all about you,” the minister said as she met Mr Haslam.
But what she said next has the Haslam family furious and doubtful Mrs Skinner’s conservative view on medical marijuana will ever change. “Don’t you know smoking cannabis gives you lung cancer?” Mrs Skinner reportedly said.
Mrs Haslam described the remark as “deeply offensive”.
“If she knew all about him as she claimed she did then she would have know he already has lung cancer,” she said.
“People with terminal illness aren’t concerned about the long-term effects of things. They are desperate and are focused on their immediate need.”
The Haslams’ campaign to decriminalise cannabis for the terminally ill last week featured on national current affairs program The Project and a petition to be presented to state parliament has already attracted more than 21,000 signatures.
A state Upper House committee last year unanimously supported decriminalising the drug for certain categories of patient.
Mrs Skinner has refused to back the recommendations due to insufficient research into the use of crude cannabis.
She acknowledged she had discussed the potential health impacts of smoking cannabis to Mr Haslam during her recent visit to Tamworth.
“While in Tamworth recently, I spoke with the Haslam family and discussed with them their views about legalising medicinal cannabis,” Mrs Skinner said.
“I listened to Daniel’s story and gave him and his family my sympathies and support.
“I explained the NSW Government stance on decriminalisation of crude cannabis as well as NSW Health concerns about cannabis usage and the health side effects.”