Pubdate: Sun, 15 Mar 2015
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 Canberra Times


The difficult debate over reforming marijuana laws returned to the 
ACT on Friday when a Legislative Assembly committee began taking 
submissions on the issue.

That gravely ill members of our community are suffering needlessly 
and forced to plead with legislators because they cannot get access 
to the drug is a situation we owe to them to fix. According to 
overseas evidence, cannabis products can offer great relief, under 
the right conditions, although debate remains. It is also 
unacceptable that doctors may face prosecution for advising those 
patients to access marijuana products.

But Health Minister Simon Corbell is right to raise concerns about 
suggestions that patients should be allowed to grow limited 
quantities of the drug in their homes.

Cannabis is a chemically complex plant with many different strains 
and breeds. What ill Canberrans need is the ability to buy a safe, 
known version of the drug, via prescription from a doctor with 
suitable knowledge of its effects. It's not fair to ask seriously 
unwell patients to grow their own medicine, potentially putting them 
at further risk from break-ins and theft. Those in need of opioids 
are not expected to grow poppies in their backyards and do their best 
to get the dose right.

While there has been a lot of research into medicinal cannabis in 
other countries, once the medical debate is settled in Australia 
there is no reason why cannabis should be treated any differently to 
drugs like opioids. Regulated, grown in controlled conditions, 
properly tested to recognised drug safety standards and made 
available where appropriate.

The other side of the debate is the need to take a more cautious path 
in relaxing cannabis laws than has happened in the United States. 
Advocates of the drug are quick to point to its benefits, but are 
less enthusiastic to highlight some of the lingering concerns about 
potential links to mental illness. Like any drug, cannabis can have a 
seriously negative impact on the lives of some users.

In the US, where it is possible to buy the drug legally at shops in a 
number of states, the industry has become a circus, dominated by the 
recreational users who often use medicinal grounds to justify their 
use of the drug.

Recreational use is a debate for another day. For now, the doctors 
and the patients, not the boosters, should be the voices with the 
greatest authority as the ACT attempts to find a better outcome for 
those most in need of this potential reform.
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