A leap forward for the use of medical cannabis in Australia

Jasmine Burke looks at plans to legalise the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Australia.

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“It’s like having the most severe hangover you’ve ever had in your life. You’re tired and you’re fatigued. Your body aches and you’re constantly nauseous.”

Those are the words of Dan Haslan, a 24-year-old male who has terminal bowel cancer. In an interview with Triple J’s Hack, he tells the world of his pain. He continues, “You feel like death warmed up”.

The best treatment for the excruciating pain, he says, is marijuana. At the suggestion of a close friend, Dan decided to try using cannabis to ease his nausea after chemotherapy treatment.

“I haven’t been violently ill since I started on it, that alone is enough for me. From spending a night in hospital and losing five kilos every fortnight to not vomiting and being able to eat,” Dan said.

So, every week Dan has been breaking the law by smoking marijuana and consuming cannabis oil just to keep going.

It is cases like this that have fuelled the ongoing debate between the medical and political communities concerning the illegal drug marijuana – or cannabis – and whether it should be legalised for medical purposes.

The legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes has been in the works for a long time. Cannabis advocates have been tirelessly campaigning for more than 20 years. The good news is, the politicians are finally listening.

And it’s about time. Up until now, Australia has had a strong stance against the use of cannabis for medical purposes. There is an enormous amount of people, like Dan Haslan, whose suffering caused by illness can be eased with marijuana. For cancer patients the drug helps relieve nausea after chemotherapy and assists in gaining weight. Thanks to Dan and his recent campaigning, as well as pressures from other parties, it is now recognised that the illegal drug has genuine medical benefits that have been overlooked for too long due to the hazards of the drug’s recreational use.

A year ago Prime Minister Tony Abbott said no to even trialling the drug. It seems he has changed his mind; in a letter to talkback radio host Alan Jones in August this year, he said he has “no problem with the medical use of cannabis”.

He even went so far as to say that if something has been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction, then it shouldn’t need to be tested again in Australia.

This turnaround is great news for cancer patients and others who benefit from the use of cannabis products to help relieve symptoms.

There will be a clinical trial for the drug later this year. Until then, we will have to wait and see.

Image: Frans Sellies