Reefer Madness alive and well in the halls of Parliament

Fight goes on: Director of United in Compassion Lucy Haslam continues to advocate for the use of medicinal cannabis.
Fight goes on: Director of United in Compassion Lucy Haslam continues to advocate for the use of medicinal cannabis.

My name is Lucy Haslam and I am a medicinal Cannabis Advocate after seeing the miraculous relief it gave to my son Dan when he was battling stage 4 bowel cancer.

Yesterday was a really hard day for me as I sat in my small home office organising the 2017 Medicinal Cannabis Symposium for Melbourne next month. My phone rings constantly…….I informally counselled two desperate patients.

One was the wife of a young man and father of very young children. He was diagnosed at Easter with inoperable stomach cancer. This young wife described the helplessness of their situation…..how her husband felt so afraid but also so numbed by the Fentanyl patches, Oxycontin and Valium he had been prescribed to manage his pain. He had spent days in hospital after his first dose of chemotherapy because of uncontrolled vomiting. She spoke of his lack of appetite, sleeplessness, and depression. Then she told the reason for her call to me…a complete stranger.

Last week the family encouraged him to take some Cannabis oil. That first night she said he slept…so well in fact that he didn’t require breakthrough doses of analgesia. He also began to eat again. He regained some spirit and some fight. She thanked me that my son had opened the debate on medicinal Cannabis and said that had that not occurred she would not have dared for him to try it.

I shared with her a secret. After months of lobbying various federal political parties and independent senators, the Shadow Health Minister had just called me and told me that after re-evaluation overnight, they had decided to support a disallowance motion by the Greens.  

This motion would have reversed the very misguided policy of the Federal Government which removed access to Cannabis by people with a terminal illness (via Category A of the Special Access Scheme).

I was so happy to share that….it gave her instant relief to know that there was potentially a legal pathway to provide Cannabis for her husband and with the vote in the Senate scheduled for 4pm yesterday it could have been reality by morning.

The other patient I spoke to was the mother of a teenager with Tourette’s syndrome. She was worried her daughter was so bombed out on the antipsychotics prescribed to her. 

The side effects were very alarming. I pointed her to the black market to obtain some Cannabis tincture (CBD) recognising the urgency of the situation.

Then the day got sadder as the disallowance motion was narrowly defeated….in fact it was 32 votes to each side. 

The Labor Party voted with their conscience and gave support to challenge the Government and I am extremely grateful for that. 

However Pauline Hansen and Nick Xenophon had done a deal with the Government effectively selling out the needs of the terminally ill.

There is simply no justification for removing cannabis from medications that can be accessed by the terminally ill. 

I thought that Senator Xenophon and Senator Hanson supported the choices that terminally ill patients make to alleviate their suffering.

Today I wake to a Courier Mail article quoting our Federal Health Minister which echoes a scene out from the 1930s when Reefer Madness was taking a propaganda axe to Cannabis as medicine.

The result of that scaremongering was blanket prohibition of a versatile herbal medicine that could have been preventing misery of genuinely sick patients over the following eight decades.

Minister Hunt’s attack on Bill Shorten calling the decision “one of the most irresponsible and dangerous decisions by a leader of a major political party in decades” is complete and utter nonsense. It is born of the blatant disconnect with reality of medicinal Cannabis users who are effectively all “tarred with the one brush”.  

Recreational use of cannabis IS NOT THE SAME AS MEDICAL USE and it is time that Government and bureaucrats had a serious reality check.

The Federal Government’s policy is a confused mess and is keeping really sick people firmly in the grips of the illicit market. It is denying basic human rights on the basis of medical necessity. It is alarmist and it is full of mistruths.

To state that the Greens motion would have allowed the opening of floodgates to Australian patients importing “bags of weed” and products that are unsafe, unregulated and even deadly is quite frankly “BS”.

If the Government wants to make this an election issue then bring it on because the Australian public unlike the Government can make that distinction, they do recognise the science and more importantly they DO have compassion for the dying.

Lucy Haslam

Director of United in Compassion

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