Letters to the Editor || Lucy Haslam – Barnaby, where do you stand on medicinal cannabis use?

Where do you stand: Lucy Haslam says it's about time there was a united approach to medicinal cannabis. Photo: Peter Hardin 200217PHD004
Where do you stand: Lucy Haslam says it's about time there was a united approach to medicinal cannabis. Photo: Peter Hardin 200217PHD004

Last month a Di Natale Bill on Medicinal Cannabis passed in the Senate unopposed. I watched the proceedings and couldn’t help but notice the overwhelmingly scathing criticism of the Government and I can say that I share many of the views expressed by all the minor parties, independents, and opposition.

Barnaby you tell me that you support Medicinal Cannabis. If this is really the case you need to stand up and be counted because the Liberals are leading you down the wrong path. Let me explain why I believe this to be the case.

Your Government continually quotes Dr Michael Gannon of the AMA. His opposition to Medicinal Cannabis is used as a primary reason the Government has blocked access to the Terminally ill through SAS Category A.

There are a couple of points to make here:

Firstly, he is seeking pre-selection to the Liberal party. I would expect that this would give him an incentive to be an enthusiastic critic of cannabis so from the start his opinion is possibly biased and he has interests that are not unencumbered. He and the Government is conveniently mistaking his “authority” for expertise!

He is not a Medicinal Cannabis authority, he is an obstetrician and the head of a trade union. On many occasions, there is great disparity between the administration of such organisations and the opinions of the members.

I believe this is one such occasion as there are many doctors who do not share the views of Dr Gannon and who are enthusiastic about the future of Medicinal Cannabis, albeit frustrated by the many hurdles and obstacles being placed in the way of patient access by the likes of the TGA and State Governments.

If you would like to seek an expert opinion you may think about Emeritus Professor Laurie Mather, Dr Alex Wodak an Addiction Specialist or Professor Ian McGregor of Sydney University.

Professor McGregor began his career as many did……funded to explore the harms of cannabis and who now, is fully convinced about the potential benefits of cannabinoids and indeed “whole plant” cannabinoid medicines. 

I believe that you would get a much more reliable and informed opinion without the vested interests and personal biases that Michael Gannon brings to the table and I would be more than happy to make that introduction.

It is particularly important in your previous role as Minister for Agriculture that you become more informed about how Medicinal Cannabis can add great value to the Australian economy. This is of course secondary to meeting the medical needs of a large cohort of the population currently languishing, abandoned by the Government.

I feel that Professor McGregor could give you some of the reassurances that you need to have a less hysterical view particularly of the potential harms.

You recently told the story of how you have had to comfort a mother whose son had committed suicide due to marijuana use. I seem to remember you told me the same story when I first met you with Dan in 2014.

This is a very sad situation I agree Barnaby but this is a ridiculous uninformed comment based on your own personal misconceptions which, if you were better informed would have evaporated with the emerging science in much the same way that my fears were allayed once I researched and became up to date in my opinion.

The link between heavy recreational cannabis use in young adults and harms is certainly recognised and not disputed but to be putting forward recreational misuse as a reason to deny a dying patient access to a medicine that improves their quality of life and reduces suffering is just beyond words.

You are talking here about correlation and not cause, there is no substantive evidence in the literature to indicate that cannabis causes people to commit suicide.

Time and time again Minister Hunt and Dr Gannon dismiss not only the views of thousands of Australian patients' but also world-renowned experts, clinicians, scientists and doctors from around the planet, in particular from the US and Israel, who right now are treating many more thousands of patients lawfully and legitimately and getting fantastic results. Referring to this work too as 'anecdotal' is stretching the point to an absurdly implausible extent showing it up as the weak and untenable excuse that it is.

Barnaby your own uninformed opinion is now being given as reason to remain complicit with the Government and disallow access to the terminally ill.

This makes me so frustrated and I think that if you had a better-informed view you would be a better MP who represented what the Australian public are absolutely crying out for and what the Liberal party are hell bent on stopping.

I really urge you to become better informed rather than just accepting the mistruths that are being bandied around by the Liberal Party especially when the Prime Minister is stating that the Government will block the access bill in the Lower House. 

Will you be there alongside them when they block it if the electorate puts you back in Canberra?

I really think it is time you decided one way or the other where you stand and to stop being a fence sitter. Our local community is very strong on this issue thanks mainly to Dan’s courage and suffering.

I would encourage you to be here for the New England and the Australian people and break away from the Liberal harshness and insincerity around access to Medicinal Cannabis which is so repulsive to those with an ounce of humanity.

Lucy Haslam

Tamworth