Pubdate: Sun, 24 May 2015
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 Canberra Times
Author: Adam Gartrell
Page: 5


More than two-thirds of Australians back the use of medicinal
cannabis, according to a new survey likely to bolster support among
MPs who are set to vote on the issue in the coming months.

Palliative Care Australia has found 67 per cent of people are happy to
see the drug used to help patients with chronic pain and illness - and
support is strongest among the elderly.

The survey found people in older age brackets were more supportive of
legalisation than the young: 72 per cent of 75 to 84-year-olds are in
favour, compared to 62 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.

The survey of 1006 people from across the country found just 9 per
cent of Australians oppose the use of medicinal cannabis. About a
quarter - 24 per cent - say they are not sure.

The results will further add to the momentum behind a legalisation
bill currently before the Federal Parliament.

The bill - drafted by Greens leader Richard Di Natale and cosponsored
by Liberal, Labor and cross bench senators - would make the federal
government responsible for overseeing the production, distribution and
use of medicinal cannabis.

A Senate inquiry into the bill is set to report back to Parliament
next month. The bill looks likely to pass into law, particularly given
Prime Minister Tony Abbott threw his support behind the legalisation
last year.

''I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis just as I have no
problem with the medical use of opiates,'' he said.

PCA chief executive Liz Callaghan is calling for a strong
evidence-based approach to medical cannabis use. She wants more
research into side effects and the impacts on other medications a
patient might be taking.

''A number of terminally ill Australian may benefit from the addition
of medicinal cannabis to their pain relief but we need to be certain
it does more good than harm,'' she said ahead of the survey's release
on Sunday.

Richard Chye, the director of Sacred Heart Palliative Care at St
Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, backs the PCA's position and the bill
before Parliament.

''Because there's so much public interest in this medication - and I
get asked about it by my patients so much - I think it's important to
have the answers. Otherwise the debate will always be there,''
Associate Professor Chye told Fairfax Media.

''I think we should test it properly and get an answer once and for

The PCA findings come just days after Australian company AusCann
struck a landmark deal with Norfolk Island to grow high-grade
medicinal cannabis that it plans to export to Canada.

AusCann hopes to be able to send its crops to the Australian mainland
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