A year ago Ben Oakley was suffering up to 61 life-threatening body spasms a day due to a rare neurological disorder – in the last 10 months he has had one single spasm.
The young Towradgi man credits medicinal cannabis for the remarkable turnaround, with daily capsules helping to stop the spasms, control the pain and ease the muscle rigidity caused by stiff person syndrome.
Mr Oakley, 20, is one of just 20 Australians with the condition which struck him down three years ago and has seen him confined to a wheelchair, unable to continue with his schooling or usual routine.
Since starting the regime of eight cannabis oil capsules a day he has begun to walk unaided, started university, regained his licence and, importantly, his independence.
On Wednesday he and his father Michael went to Parliament House to share his story on the day federal legislation on medicinal cannabis was tabled.
The Turnbull government’s proposed amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 will allow for cultivation of medicinal cannabis through a national licensing and permit scheme.
‘’This bill is a huge step forward to getting medicinal cannabis legalised,’’ Mr Oakley said.
‘’However it’s still an illegal drug and I won’t stop until that changes – if I had it taken away from me now I would be back where I was 10 months ago – stuck on the couch and in constant pain.
‘’It’s changed my life – and it can change the lives of a lot of people who struggle with chronic pain.’’
Mr Oakley and his father Michael met with opposition ministers including Throsby MP Stephen Jones, shadow assistant minister for health.
Mr Jones said Labor welcomed the government’s introduction of medicinal cannabis legislation, but more needed to be done.
‘’After a lengthy delay, we’ve finally got a bill in the house,’’ he said. ‘’Now we need to look at what improvements can be made before it’s passed into law.
‘’We want Australian producers to be able to legally cultivate and manufacture medicinal cannabis products. But this bill doesn’t deal with the legal issues around personal possession and use.’’
After seeing the change in his son, Michael Oakley started an online petition urging the NSW government to legalise medicinal cannabis oil which has more than 3000 signatures.
‘’A year ago I expected I would be putting my son in the grave – that he would have an episode of spasms that would kill him,’’ he said.
‘’He won’t ever be without the disease but with medicinal cannabis it is manageable. He’s in less pain, has more movement and hopes to soon be rid of the chair.’’