Turning cannabis crops seized by police into medicinal products for the chronically or terminally ill was one idea put to Premier Mike Baird in Wollongong on Monday.
Towradgi father and son, Michael and Ben Oakley, have been fervent campaigners for medicinal cannabis thanks to its remarkable effect on Ben’s rare condition.
A daily dose has helped Ben, 20, deal with the chronic pain caused by stiff person syndrome, and has stopped the life-threatening body spasms it causes.
‘’We are very grateful to Mr Baird for taking the time to hear us out,’’ Mr Oakley said.
‘’One idea we put forward was that when the police are capturing illegal crops, instead of destroying the product it should be given to those who know how to make the medicines from it, so it can be put into the hands of those who need it.’’
Mr Oakley also wants to see protections in place for those cultivating marijuana specifically for medicinal purposes.
‘’I’m pushing the idea of a moratorium to allow those people who already produce medicinal cannabis to be allowed to keep doing so without the fear of prosecution.
‘’There’s dozens of people in the Illawarra alone who are doing so illegally to help people in need find relief, not for their own profit.
‘’I’m proposing a sanction period for them to continue until formal government suppliers can be set up and are ready to run.’’
For while Federal legislation changes will enable the cultivation of cannabis from November, it could be some time before a fully functioning system is in place.
Similarly, Mr Oakley said, while state government regulatory changes allowed GPs to prescribe medicinal cannabis, there remained major impediments.
‘’Patients have to have exhausted all other potential treatment options – if we had left it as a last resort for Ben, he wouldn’t be here.
‘’I think we were able to open Mr Baird’s eyes a bit more to the debate, but we would like to see more action.’’
He added: ‘’To get the ball rolling I’d like to see doctors prescribing medicinal cannabis as an alternative to an opiate-based medicine or benzoid for any kind of spasticity.’’
Mr Oakley said while he appreciated the funds the Baird government was investing in clinical trials, the process needed to speed up with trials in other countries already proving the efficiacy of medicinal pot.
‘’They’re moving quickly by government standards,’’ he said, ‘’but people are still suffering and dying.’’