Implementing Medical Cannabis

In 2014, 128,000 Australian citizens will be deprived of a well-recognised medicine ‘scientifically proven’ to relive their pain. 128,000 is the number of cancer patients that the Cancer Council Australia has calculated to be affected by cancer in Australia by the end of this year (1).

Australia was given the chance in 2013 to amend its current stance on medical Cannabis when a New South Wales Parliament Committee proposed amendment to allow terminally ill patients the right to up to 15grams of Cannabis for the purpose of pain relief (2).

However, this proposal was ultimately rejected by the New South Wales Government due to an apparent lack of evident research backing the efficiency of Cannabis for medical use (3).

Greens MP Kaye was ‘disappointed’ with the handed down concluded by the government, whilst former Labor MP O’Grady was equally unhappy. O’Grady believed at a minimum, since ‘good policies are evidence based’; there should have been a medical Cannabis trial (4).

American research carried out by Harvard in 2007 has revealed that in many instances, Cannabis has been found to reduce cancer growth by as much as half in as little as three weeks. The research revealed that THC, an active chemical in Cannabis has the ability to slow and interfere with cancer growth. During the research, a controlled batch of mice with cancer were found to be 50-60% more likely of cancer re-treatment compared to a controlled group of cancerous mice not provided with THC (5).

Furthermore, in 2012 German research concluded that Cannabis does not only benefit cancer patients. Cannabis has found to have numerous medical benefits for multiple illnesses. The research found Cannabis to have beneficial medical uses for illnesses ranging from: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ‘MS’, Tourette’s syndrome, ‘chronic pain’, spasms, nausea, and eating problems.

If medical Cannabis was to be adopted within Australia, over 200,000 suffering individuals may be able to ease their pain every year. The range of medical Cannabis’ efficacy can be seen in the following table of Colorado’s medical Cannabis patients symptoms.

conditions-medical

*Does not add to 100% as some patients report using medical marijuana for more than one debilitating medical condition. (6)

Cannabis was initially banned following a League of Nations summit in 1925; the prohibition however was not rolled officially out into Australia until the 1950’s. On the back of no scientific research Cannabis was declared as ‘dangerous as opium’ and therefore made illegal, 88 years later thousands have been jailed, millions of dollars have been spent on maintaining the Cannabis prohibition and most concerning, millions of citizens world-wide with legitimate illnesses have had to suffer the prohibition (7).

Most concerning, Cannabis was banned on the grounds of being ‘as dangerous as opium’, however opium is currently a frequently used medication during modern medical procedures (8).

This concern was expressed by Premier Campbell Newman, when he questioned why opium is authorised for use, yet Cannabis is not. The American Medical Association concurred that Cannabis is a legitimate medicine when in 2009 it added the substance to the list of prescription drugs (9).

If Australian’s follow American policies to go into war, why would we not trust their policies on medicine? The social opinion whether medical Cannabis is effective or not can be seen in the ‘discontinue’ rate of medical Cannabis, only 10% of American medical Cannabis patients have ever decided to discontinue use. This evidently suggests that the patients do indeed agree with the benefits presented for medical Cannabis (10).

Surveys on both doctors and law enforcement within America justify the opinion that Cannabis is in fact a valid and much needed medicine. The survey revealed that 69% of US MD’s surveyed believed Cannabis should be legal for medical use (11); a separate survey on 11,000 US police officers revealed that 65% of them believed there should be a decriminalisation or legalisation on Cannabis (12).

If 69% of American MD’s researched believed Cannabis to be a useful medicine and 69% of law enforcement believe the substance should be legal, would it not be logical to allow the medical use or at least a trial of medical Cannabis in Australia. These surveys are not the opinions of ‘pot smoking hippies’ or ‘criminals’, they are the opinions of internationally recognized American doctors and law enforcement.

It is not only American surveys that are calling for the implementation of medical Cannabis, surveys taken out within Australia presented a 69% support rate for the implementation of medical Cannabis, with a further 74% more favourable of a trial of medical Cannabis before its official implementation (13).

The social support of Cannabis within Australia can be seen when the HEMP or Help End Marijuana Prohibition party placed 8th out of a possible 77 parties in the 2014 Western Australian Senate election (14), narrowly missing a seat in parliament.

The final argument for the implementation of medical Cannabis is the profit governments reap from the industry. The American state of Colorado generated approximately $1.5 million US dollars from the sale of medical Cannabis in January 2014; Colorado expects to generate $18million in the 2014 year from the sales of medical Cannabis (15).

Medical Cannabis will not only generate more income for the Australian government, it will also generate more jobs within the new industry.

How could this not be seen as beneficial in terms of economics for Australia? As long as the prohibition of medical Cannabis exists in Australia, hundreds of thousands of severely ill citizens will continue to live with pain and suffering.

This call is not for the legalisation of Cannabis, simply the right for severely ill patients to be lawfully prescribed a ‘scientifically proven’ medicine to reduce their pain.

A trial of medical Cannabis in Australia could once and for all resolve the issues the Australian Government has with the use of medical Cannabis; hopefully such trial would provide enough evidence for the government to finally concede to the proven benefits of medical Cannabis and therefore rethink their stance on prohibition.

Michael Hawkins.


1. Cancer Council Australia, 2014, http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/facts-and-figures.html

2. Mark Coultan,2013, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/medical-use-marijuana-backed/story-e6frgczx-1226643417115#

3. Sarah Hawke,2013, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-16/nsw-rules-out-medical-marijuana-for-terminal-patients/5096476

4. J.Green, 2013, http://www.theweedblog.com/harvard-study-finds-Cannabis-cuts-tumor-growth-in-half-in-three-weeks/

5. F.Grotenhermen&K.Muller-Vahl,2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23008748

6. Colorado State Government, 2014 http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDPHE-CHEIS/CBON/1251593017044

7. R.Fitzgerald,2013, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/time-to-get-real-on-Cannabis-use/story-e6frg6zo-1226645144660

8. S.Vogler,2014, http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/campbell-newman-gets-behind-medicinal-pot/story-fnihsrf2-1226801037682

9. L.MatherE.Rauwendaal;V.Moxham-Hall&A.Wodak,2013, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/11/reintroducing-medicinal-Cannabis

10. L.MatherE.Rauwendaal;V.Moxham-Hall&A.Wodak,2013, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/11/reintroducing-medicinal-Cannabis

11. 2014, http://www.medicalCannabis.com.au/the-joint-blog/new-poll-69-of-physicians-in-the-us-believe-Cannabis-has-legitimate-medical-benefits

12. 2014, http://www.medicalCannabis.com.au/the-joint-blog/new-survey-64-of-law-enforcement-officers-want-Cannabis-laws-reformed

13. A.Wodak&L.Mather,2014, http://theconversation.com/australia-has-no-reason-to-disallow-medical-Cannabis-use-24717

14. A.Green,2014, http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2014/03/a-summary-of-preferences-and-candidates-for-the-wa-senate-re-election-1.html

15. K.Phillips,2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/03/11/its-no-toke-colorado-pulls-in-millions-in-marijuana-tax-revenue/

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