Government resistance a ‘tragedy’

A GLOBAL authority on medical marijuana has described as a “great tragedy” the NSW government’s resistance to making the drug legally available to the terminally ill.

The comments come as the push to decriminalise medical marijuana continues to gain steam, with an envoy of politicians – led by Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson – set to fly out to Tasmania today as part of a fact-finding mission.

Tasmania is being touted as the nation’s future supplier of cannabis for medicinal use under a plan to be considered by the state’s government this week.

Professor Lester Grinspoon, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of a number of books on medical marijuana, told The Alan Jones Breakfast Show on Friday the greatest impediment to decriminalising the drug was not governments, but pharmaceutical companies.

He said there was “no question” pharmaceutical companies were actively lobbying governments in Australia to keep marijuana illegal.

“It’s useful for a host of disorders and has so many advantages over pharmaceuticals,” Professor Grinspoon said.

“It’s been used as a medicine for at least 5000 years, is remarkably non-toxic and will cost a lot less than pharmaceuticals.

“It’s not just that governments aren’t apprising people of what in future will be known as a wonder-drug, but they are making criminals of them. This, to me, is a great tragedy.”

The cross-party delegation to visit Tasmania this week includes Mr Anderson and fellow Nationals MPs from the region Trevor Khan and Sarah Mitchell.

The group will speak to Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson, health officials from St Vincent’s, the University of Tasmania, Tasmanian Police Service and the Tasmanian Nurses and Midwives Federation.

They will also meet with representatives from Tasman Health Cannabinoids, a private company set to conduct a clinical study into the anti-nausea benefits of cannabis for chemotherapy patients, and visit a legal poppy plantation.

“Given Tasmania has legal opium and poppy plantations, we are interested in how they manage growing a dangerous drug,” Mr Anderson said.

Mr Anderson is drafting a private members’ bill to legalise marijuana for the terminally ill in NSW.

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