Friends of Nioka back campaign

A COMMUNITY group dedicated to supporting Tamworth’s palliative care unit has thrown its backing behind the campaign to legalise medical marijuana.

Friends of Nioka members voted unanimously last week to support legislation that would allow terminally ill patients access to cannabis to ease their symptoms.

In a sign of how the Haslam family’s campaign has captured the hearts and minds of a cross-section of the community, the motion was moved by an 86-year-old man.

Friends of Nioka, which boasts former New England MP Tony Windsor as its patron, was formed 12 years ago to raise money to furnish Nioka Palliative Care Unit with equipment.

Its president, Bryan Singh, said 30 members – with an average age of about 70 – discussed the medical marijuana issue before voting unanimously in its favour.

He said as most of the group’s members had lost a loved one to a terminal illness, they were acutely aware of the need to manage a person’s pain in their final days, weeks or months.

Mr Singh said the Haslam family – including Dan and his parents Lou and Lucy – were an inspiration for the manner in which they had pursued the campaign.

“All we’re doing is supporting them in their reasonable request that their son have access to appropriate medicines that are working for him,” he said.

“There’s no doubt at all they have done a remarkable job of making the community aware of this issue.

“They are enormously well-respected as a family and I think their bravery and their wisdom has been a shining example for the community.”

Dan Haslam, 24, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in 2010 and has used cannabis to manage the crippling side effects of chemotherapy.

Mr Windsor, who told The Leader he had “no issues” with medicinal marijuana, said Mr Haslam’s plight had struck a chord with people all over the country.

“He is a real person who people can see with real parents, real friends, and I think people say ‘why not?’, if it can be done in a controlled environment,” he said.

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson will introduce a private member’s bill to the NSW Parliament later this year seeking approval for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.