Pubdate: Tue, 31 Mar 2015
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 Canberra Times
Author: Tom McIlroy


An anti-drugs lobby group has told the Legislative Assembly that 
medical marijuana could act as a "Trojan horse" for illegal drug use 
in the ACT and any change to current laws could prompt an increase in 

Drug Free Australia representatives Gary Christian and Ross Colquhoun 
are to give evidence on Tuesday to a public hearing considering a 
medical cannabis scheme proposed by Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury.

The lobby group's 125-page submission to the inquiry outlines 
domestic and overseas evidence that is critical of medical cannabis 
schemes and says reform is not needed in Australia because some 
patients already have access to legal synthetic cannabinoid drugs.

Drug Free Australia is affiliated with conservative organisations 
such as the Australian Christian Lobby, the Australian Family 
Association and Melbourne-based Christian ethics group Salt Shakers.

Drug Free Australia's website names Australian tennis great Margaret 
Court as the group's patron. The 24-times grand slam singles champion 
and evangelical pastor attracted criticism in 2012 for her vocal 
criticism of gay rights and same-sex marriage.

In a submission to the assembly inquiry, Drug Free Australia outlined 
seven primary objections to medical cannabis use in the ACT, 
including arguing that the "medical establishment" did not support 
reform and the current push had come from "drug legalisation lobbyists".

The group calls cancer patient and campaigner Dan Haslam a 
"media-showcase". Mr Haslam, who used cannabis to manage pain from 
terminal bowel cancer, died in February after helping convince New 
South Wales Premier Mike Baird to pursue a medical cannabis trial.

Arguing medical marijuana is a "misnomer", the group cites a 2012 
study from the United States that found medical marijuana use by 
teens in drug treatment programs was common and policy changes were 
needed to stop access to drugs by teenagers from registered users.

"The Greens' bill does not recognise that it is legislating 
trafficable quantities of cannabis," the submission said. "Just one 
single cannabis plant, harvested up to five times a year, can yield 
2500 grams of cannabis per year, enough for 8600 joints  far beyond 
the needs of any single patient. "

The source of the figures is linked to data from the 1970s and the 1990s.

Drug Free Australia also argued the harms of recreational cannabis 
use are so substantial that "any leeway to Trojan horse strategies of 
the drug legalisation lobby should never be contemplated".

"The Greens' bill, simply by proposing the availability of crude 
cannabis in any form, clearly ignores the damage done by cannabis to 
users and their community."

The submission questions a household survey of 24,000 people that 
found 90 per cent of participants opposed recreational cannabis, but 
69 per cent supported cannabis for medical use.

"Drug Free Australia contends that very few of these Australians 
would be able to specify the handful of medical indications 
attributed to cannabis, and would likely disapprove anything which 
would proliferate recreational cannabis use."

Tuesday's public hearing will also receive evidence from the ACT 
branch of the Australian Medical Association, Family and Friends for 
Drug Law Reform and the Public Health Association of Australia.

The proposed scheme would allow terminally and chronically ill 
Canberrans to grow cannabis and use the drug as part of their treatment.

Mr Rattenbury's proposal, outlined in an exposure draft released last 
year, would see sufferers of terminal and chronic illness apply to 
the ACT Chief Health Officer for approval to possess and use 
cannabis. Patients using cannabis and oils, often illegally, report 
relief from pain and suffering, including nausea.

The assembly's Health, Ageing, Community and Social Services 
Committee is due to report by the end of June.
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