Across Australia, the medical marijuana initiative is slowly gaining ground with MPs from the federal and state sectors campaigning for revisions to current marijuana laws. If these officials have their way, terminally ill patients who may benefit from cannabis based therapy may finally have access to the medication they need. Along with these developments, plans to implement cannabis trials would be presented before the Victorian Parliament.
Health Minister Kim Hames spearheaded efforts to encourage the government to implement cannabis trials. Claiming the need for a national approach to the medical cannabis issue, Dr. Hames expressed belief in the medical potential of low THC cannabis as well as cannabis oil. However, he did say that more research would be required on a national level in order to determine how effective marijuana actually is.
On the political front, Warren Entsch, is currently developing a bill that would convince his colleagues in the federal government to take a closer look at the possibilities of medical marijuana. Entsch, who is Queensland MP for the liberal party, cited the recognition that medical marijuana has received in The United States, Canada, and Europe. The MP also emphasized the need to provide patients their medication without having to feel like “criminals”.
Elsewhere in the country, the state cabinet of NSW is working out the details of another private members bill that would effectively legalize small amounts of marijuana for the use of terminally ill patients. The ACT, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are all also debating holding their own cannabis trials. At present however, officials of Queensland and South Australia have announced that there are no plans to hold marijuana trials in their respective territories.
Among those pushing for more research into the medical effects of marijuana is Saxon Smith. President of the New South Wales Australian Medical Association, Smith emphasized the need to define the specific parts of the plant that would be beneficial for certain illnesses. Smith also questioned the short- and long-term benefits that medical cannabis would provide to patients, its possible side effects, and its effectiveness as compared to placebos.
There are others who feel that further research isn’t necessary. Alex Wodak who has been a longtime marijuana reform advocate, said that enough trials have been conducted in other countries. Now involved with the Australian Drug Reform Foundation, Wodak cited the December issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, in which the results of nearly a hundred trials were published. With 82 trials showing favorable results (versus nine with unfavorable results), Wodak feels that there is enough scientific support to back the legalization of medical marijuana.
In Australia, marijuana is classified as a prohibited substance under guidelines set by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This means that states that have decided to make medical marijuana legal would have to produce the product entirely within their respective borders.
In the midst of all this, the government itself may be the biggest stumbling block. In a statement released by a representative for Assistant Federal Health Minister Fiona Nash, it was revealed that there are currently no plans to change the legal status of marijuana, even as the government claimed to sympathize with the needs of medical marijuana patients.