(Debate on Bill, Thursday 10 August 2017, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill is much-needed legislation which will ensure that people with a terminal illness or a serious medical condition can access cannabis products without being criminally liable. Medical evidence shows, and people continue to report, that cannabis can increase the quality of life of people with serious medical concerns and produce better outcomes with fewer symptoms than pharmaceuticals. Cannabis can be used to reduce pain, nausea, muscle spasms and seizures and to improve hunger in the management of conditions like multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stiff person syndrome, Crohn's disease and cancer, including problems associated with chemotherapy.
I understand that the basis of the science is that our bodies produce marijuana-like chemicals that can reduce pain and inflammation, and that cannabis can help those chemicals to work better. More and more jurisdictions across the world are permitting the use of medicinal cannabis, including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, and more than 20 states of the United States of America. While in New South Wales we have the Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme, it fails to ensure that people can get the best treatment. The scheme caters for only terminal illnesses; a range of serious and debilitating conditions, diseases and syndromes are excluded.
Cannabis cultivation and supply remain strictly illegal, significantly restricting the average person's capacity to access medicinal cannabis products and forcing others to rely on the unregulated black market. I have heard distressing stories of people who use or supply medicinal cannabis oil being charged and of sick people suddenly losing their access to effective medication when their suppliers have been charged. This cautious approach has serious consequences for people who are already suffering and, it is completely unnecessary.
The high rate of recreational cannabis use in the community—35 per cent of Australians over the age of 14 have tried the drug, and 10.2 per cent have tried it recently—has not contributed to poor health and injury, addiction rates are low, and overdose is rare. What is being proposed in this bill is not recreational use and it will not lead to anyone getting high. The bill is about the management of serious and debilitating medical conditions. We allow for medical uses of what could be considered more dangerous and addictive drugs like morphine, ketamine, cocaine and amphetamine. Support for medicinal cannabis is high in the community, with a recent Morgan poll recording it as high as 90 per cent. People do not support senseless suffering.
This bill is sensible and it will ensure that all seriously sick people who could benefit from medical cannabis can access it. Australia has ideal conditions for growing cannabis, which means that medical cannabis can be more affordable than conventional pharmaceuticals. There is no reason not to let seriously sick people who will benefit from cannabis from using and accessing this treatment. I commend the bill to the House.
See debate in Parliament HERE.