Pubdate: Mon, 04 Apr 2016
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 Canberra Times
Author: Scott Hannaford


Medicinal cannabis supporters are pushing forward with plans to 
establish a dispensary in the ACT, similar to those found in some 
states of the United States where the drug is freely sold from shopfronts.

Launching advocacy group The Med Shed at the Hellenic Club in Woden 
on Sunday afternoon, group co-ordinator Matthew Holmes said a large 
number of pain, nausea and seizure sufferers were forced to break the 
law to seek relief. Despite overseas evidence of the drug's 
effectiveness, the medical community in Australia remained slow to 
accept it as a viable treatment.

By establishing the group they wanted to take advantage of the 
October ACT election to pressure candidates and parties to change the 
law and make cannabis use legal for medical purposes in the ACT.

In February the Senate passed changes to the Narcotic Drugs Act that 
will allow cannabis to be grown legally for the first time in 
decades. A national body will be established that can issue licences 
to growers and regulate local crops of medicinal marijuana, however 
possession and use remain illegal. Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley 
said in February that the Department of Health and the Therapeutic 
Goods Administration were well advanced with plans to help lower 
barriers that prevented cannabis access for those with a genuine medical need.

But Mr Holmes said the changes were not happening fast enough, and 
called on ACT Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury, a supporter of 
medicinal cannabis use, to provide an amnesty from prosecution for 
those currently using the drug.

"We do think Canada has the best arrangement [for providing cannabis 
to patients] and we'd like the Assembly to take us to a similar 
model," Mr Holmes said. "However, if that doesn't come about in the 
one-to-two-year timeframe we will take matters into our own hands and 
we do have the support to open a dispensary."

Twenty-one-year-old chronic pain sufferer and cannabis oil user Laura 
Bryant told the group that she wanted to see the dispensary opened by 
2017. Ms Bryant said since deciding to go public with her own story 
through The Canberra Times last year she had been overwhelmed with 
people wanting more information and to get help.

"Eighteen months ago I would have to crawl the 12 steps from my 
bedroom to the toilet some days. I'm now studying nursing and 
paramedicine, I've moved out of home, things that no one thought I 
would ever be able to do. But I live in constant fear of being 
arrested," she said.

Laura's mother Bernadette Bryant, who had spent years acting as her 
daughter's primary carer, said the group wanted to offer legal, 
medical and moral support to those with a need for access to cannabis.

"My life's plans never included watching my husband roll a joint for 
my daughter . . . but this drug was life-saving and has given our 
family our lives back," she said.

Mrs Bryant said the group was organising a petition to be presented 
to the Legislative Assembly, seeking advocates and support from 
across the community to attend public events.

Mr Holmes said the group was also planning to establish a centre 
where those in need could visit once a week to meet qualified doctors 
and seek advice on whether cannabis might be a suitable treatment for 
their condition.

ACT Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury could not be reached for comment.
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