A FORMER Australian Federal Police chief has backed a decision by Tamworth police not to arrest a local family for cannabis possession.
Oxley police commander Clint Pheeney on Friday said officers had “higher priorities” than raiding the home of Dan Haslam, a terminal cancer patient using marijuana to deal with the crushing nausea and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy.
It came after former Tamworth woman Cassie Batten had her Melbourne home raided last week by the state’s child abusesSquad and cannabis tinctures she was using to treat her severely epileptic toddler seized.
The heavily pregnant Ms Batten, who was rushed to hospital at the weekend for stress associated with the raid, could face charges of possessing a drug of dependence and introducing a drug of dependence into the body of another.
Former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Palmer urged state law enforcement agencies to exercise discretion when dealing with families who are treating seriously ill children with cannabis oil.
Mr Palmer, who was the AFP commissioner from 1994 to 2001, said while reports of parents giving the illegal drug to their children put police in a difficult position, treating them as criminals “served no good purpose”.
“We exercise discretion all the time and I think this is a classic case where what has to be seriously considered is what public interest is being served,” he said. “They’re people trying to deal with an exceptionally difficult situation in the best way they know how.”
Ms Batten, who has attracted pro bono legal support from former WikiLeaks Party campaign director and barrister Greg Barns, was raided following an appearance on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program in which she said her son Cooper’s condition had improved markedly since using the tincture.
She said she turned to the cannabis oil because Cooper’s seizures were occurring almost every minute and rendered him unable to walk, talk or see.
Within 15 minutes of his first dose, she said Cooper began tracking objects for the first time. He now smiles, laughs and can say “mum” and “dad”.
Tamworth mum and medical marijuana advocate Lucy Haslam said she was “disgusted” with the Batten family’s treatment by police.
“I know of suppliers who have been raided and had the tinctures confiscated, but this is the first time that I’ve known of a family,” Ms Haslam said.
“You’ve just got to wonder what’s prompted it.”
The medical value of the tinctures remains unproven, experts say, due to a lack of research.