THE medical marijuana debate took a dramatic turn last night when Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson revealed he would lodge a private member’s bill on the issue.
Mr Anderson, who has been criticised for not publicly supporting Tamworth’s Haslam family, emerged from talks with NSW Premier Mike Baird late yesterday with the news.
The bill has ignited hopes medical marijuana for the terminally ill could be enshrined in law before next March’s state election.
It comes after an extraordinary six-week campaign from the Haslams, with the backing of local leaders and the community.
“I strongly oppose the use of recreational drugs at every level and will continue to do so, but through the Haslam family and my own research, I have a greater understanding of how cannabis can be used to alleviate the severe and distressing symptoms suffered by those who are dying,” Mr Anderson said.
“The Premier listened intently while I explained the issue to him and the circumstances surrounding my decision to try and change the laws.
“I told him about the Haslam family from Tamworth and the heartbreaking circumstances facing 24-year-old Dan Haslam who has terminal cancer and his use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“The Premier was sympathetic and agreed the time has come to address this issue and he supported my bid to work up a private members bill.”
However, lingering doubts still remain on the implementation of the law.
“Mr Baird joined with me in expressing grave concerns about the supply and the prescription of cannabis and the challenge in addressing those issues,” Mr Anderson said.
A private member’s bill is a means of allowing MPs to introduce proposed legislation while not acting on behalf of their party.
News of Mr Anderson’s bill came just a day after Greens MP John Kaye signalled his intention to lodge a similar proposal.
A source told The Leader the government had ruled out backing Mr Kaye’s bill for political reasons but Coalition members were far more likely to support “one of their own”.
Lucy Haslam, whose son Dan has terminal bowel cancer and has been using marijuana for relief, said the proposed bill was a “significant breakthrough”.
“I applaud Mr Anderson for his desire to help,” Mrs Haslam said.
“It gives us great hope that our politicians are sensing the changing attitudes of the Australian people.”