WITH his clipped tones and stern demeanour, Lou Haslam is every bit the straight-shooting ex-cop.
A former head of the Tamworth drug squad, Mr Haslam has lectured extensively about the dangers of marijuana and locked up more druggies than he cares to remember.
But in an extraordinary twist of fate, Mr Haslam now finds himself on the frontline of the push to legalise marijuana for medical use.
He has borne witness to the drug’s remarkable therapeutic powers through his youngest son Daniel, who is battling terminal bowel cancer, and has used it to deal with the crushing nausea and loss of appetite caused by chemotherapy.
“There is no such thing as a soft drug,” Mr Haslam said.
“I lectured on the dangerous long-term effects of cannabis and the build-up of the active constituent THC and how the body has no mechanism to rid itself of the compound, similar to a build up of lead in the body.
“Also how long-term use brings on psychosis in some people leading to drug-induced schizophrenia.
“But our argument is not about the recreational use by people who make that choice.
“This argument is about a treatment for the chronically ill with pain, those suffering continuous epileptic seizures, those with Crohns disease and those suffering from the effects of chemotherapy.”
He said watching his son battle the rigours of chemotherapy was soul-destroying.
“He is fed it through a portacath into the heart and leaves the clinic after four hours with a pump still attached feeding the chemo into his body for the next two days,” Mr Haslam said.
“Before he started ingesting cannabis, he would leave the clinic, book into Tamara Private Hospital, lay in a darkened room and be fed intravenously for the two days the pump was working.
“Now when he leaves the clinic, he goes home, has a smoke and has a feed.
“Last Wednesday we had steak and eggs while he was connected to the chemo pump.
“He does not lose weight, lose condition or throw up continuously.”
Mr Haslam described the scientific evidence around the issue as “overwhelming”, saying there was strong evidence marijuana could, in some cases, kill cancer cells.
“The argument for the relief of nausea alone is good enough reason to place cannabis products on the Schedule 8 drug list and make it a ‘prescribed restricted substance’,” he said.
He pointed to a joint parliamentary committee finding in 2003 and a NSW Upper House standing committee recommendation last year as “irrefutable evidence” of the political will to decriminalise cannabis for the terminally ill.
“We are not talking about a fast train or rail link connecting suburbs, we are talking about the quality of life afforded terminally ill patients now,” Mr Haslam said.
“For the minister to put a pencil line through the recommendations ... is scandalous, and even more so when the only arguments they put forward are wrong.”
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