THE Australian Medical Association (AMA) has refused to budge in its opposition to medical marijuana, despite a groundswell of support to decriminalise the drug for the sick.
The AMA’s unwavering position on the issue has frustrated pro-medical marijuana advocates and has been cited by a number of state health ministers as a reason to baulk at the introduction of a new bill.
AMA NSW branch president Dr Saxon Smith told The Leader yesterday more research had to be undertaken before the organisation would support cannabis as a medicine.
“There is a growing body of information around the world that cannabis can be useful in certain conditions, such as childhood epilepsy, chronic pain, and nausea and weight loss associated with chemotherapy,” Dr Smith said.
“But we need to look more closely at whether that is just a short-term benefit or it has long-term benefits.
“We also need to look at what the side effects are.”
He said the AMA was “more comfortable” with synthetic cannabis, rather than the cruder form of the drug.
“That way it can be treated as a controlled substance,” he said.
“In tinctures (a form of cannabis oil), the dose can’t be controlled.
“Some of the oils out there in northern NSW have no control mechanisms to ensure each batch is the same.”
He said while he could understand desperate parents “moving heaven and earth” to help their children, the AMA would only take a position based on thorough research.
“We can only encourage more research around this space,” he said. But Tamworth mum Lucy Haslam, the driving force behind the medical marijuana campaign, said there was a mountain of evidence supporting the benefits of cannabis.
About 20 countries now allow medicinal cannabis to be used to relieve distressing symptoms in a range of serious medical conditions, while more than 80 controlled studies have been conducted in Europe that support the use of the drug for the sick.
“The AMA is being very conservative on this issue,” Mrs Haslam said.
“When you’re talking about people at the end of life, short-term side effects and long-term studies mean nothing.
“And the AMA talks about more research, but who is going to fund it?
“The pharmaceutical companies certainly won’t, because they can’t make money out of it.”