Medicinal cannabis on agenda at Wollongong Hospital workshop

Better access: Towradgi's Ben Oakley with Dr David Allsop after a workshop on medicinal cannabis at Wollongong Hospital. Mr Oakley uses medicinal pot to ease the chronic pain of stiff person syndrome. Picture: Adam McLean

Better access: Towradgi's Ben Oakley with Dr David Allsop after a workshop on medicinal cannabis at Wollongong Hospital. Mr Oakley uses medicinal pot to ease the chronic pain of stiff person syndrome. Picture: Adam McLean

Towradgi’s Ben Oakley wants less talk, and more action, on medicinal cannabis.

The 20-year-old, who suffers from a rare and debilitating neurological disorder, was among the crowd at a workshop on the issue at Wollongong Hospital on Wednesday.

He welcomed the talk by leading medicinal cannabis researcher Dr David Allsop, who is using research to introduce safe and effective cannabinoid therapeutics into mainstream medicine.

Dr Allsop outlined his research, which will target a range of conditions including paediatric epilepsy, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, dementia and mental health disorders.

However while state and federal goverment moves are enabling access to legal cannabis-based medicine in some cases, Mr Oakley is among hundreds of patients still forced to source it on the black market.

His father Michael, a nurse, said medicinal pot had eased his son’s chronic pain and stopped the constant, and life-threatening, body spasms caused by stiff person syndrome.

‘’If a doctor can prescribe opiates for pain, if they can prescribe benzoids for any form of spasticity, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to provide medicinal cannabis an as option – if not as the preferred drug – for Ben’s condition,’’ he said.

‘’People who are sick want to be well, not high’’.

People who are sick want to be well, not high. - Michael Oakley

Dr Allsop, associate clinical director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, will talk with patients like Mr Oakley as part of his research.

He’s also conducting workshops to give community members, health workers and service providers the most up-to-date information on research and legislative movements.

‘’I’m conducting workshops like this to start a conversation – because patients and doctors don’t know enough about cannabis-based medicine and the regulatory route to get it,’’ Dr Allsop said.

‘’It is possible to access it, but it’s hard to access and I sympathise with people with serious medical conditions who are forced to source it illegally.

‘We need change and we need it fast, and through our research we’re trying to push it along faster by providing the evidence base that’s necessary for the medical profession and legislators.’’

Dr Allsop’s team’s research is funded by Barry and Joy Lambert, whose four-year-old granddaughter Katelyn suffers from a life-threatening form of epilepsy. 

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