Dignity for the dying: Historic step towards medical marijuana reform

THUMBS UP: Tamworth cancer patient Dan Haslam with wife Alyce and dad Lou celebrate the state government’s decision to progress a medical marijuana policy in NSW. Photo: Gareth Gardner 160914GGB04
THUMBS UP: Tamworth cancer patient Dan Haslam with wife Alyce and dad Lou celebrate the state government’s decision to progress a medical marijuana policy in NSW. Photo: Gareth Gardner 160914GGB04

A TAMWORTH family’s crusade to have medical marijuana legalised took a historic step forward yesterday when the state government snatched control of a bill to decriminalise the drug for the dying.

Under the proposal announced by Premier Mike Baird, police powers to exempt terminally ill users from prosecution will be strengthened and a clinical trial to test the efficacy of the drug will be established by a government working party.

The government will also lobby the federal government to put the issue of medical cannabis on the national research agenda.

In a dramatic day in Macquarie St, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson was forced to withdraw his private member’s bill on the issue in favour of the new government tack.

Mr Anderson yesterday remained “supremely confident” a medical marijuana policy would be in place by the March state election.

Tamworth mum Lucy Haslam, who has championed medical marijuana after seeing its effects on her terminally ill son Dan, said it was start of a “new era in Australian drug policy”.

“This is an enormous announcement and we are thrilled to see the government has listened to the overwhelming support for decriminalising medicinal cannabis,” Mrs Haslam said. 

“There’s a long way to go – legislation to regulate the supply and distribution process will still need to come forward – and there’s steps the federal government need to take too, but this is the start of a new era in Australian drug policy.” 

Mrs Haslam’s son, Dan Haslam, said he was deeply relieved by the government’s decision to remove the risk of prosecution for terminally ill users with a medical certificate.

“The biggest thing is I won’t have to feel like a criminal for doing something that is benefiting me so dramatically. To relieve that pressure of prosecution is amazing,” Mr Haslam said.

Despite fears yesterday’s announcement would delay the tabling of a bill, Mr Anderson said it was the right way forward.

“This is a huge step forward; the government has adopted everything I had in my private member’s bill,” Mr Anderson said.

“The challenge with a private member’s bill is you may not get the government to support it, but the bill has now been adopted as the government’s official response.

“The Premier has re-affirmed his commitment to making this succeed and when you’ve got him in your corner, you’ve got a great chance of achieving something.”

Mr Anderson conceded there was “plenty of resistance” to the bill in the Nationals’ and Liberals’ party rooms, especially around the issue of supply.

Mrs Haslam, who was in the public gallery for Mr Baird’s announcement, yesterday presented a petition with almost 200,000 signatures to the Premier.

Earlier yesterday, Labor announced it would offer bipartisan support for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use in NSW.

It promised to take the policy to next year’s election if the government did not change the law beforehand.

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