Medical Use of Cannabis
In the wake of new legislation surrounding the use of medicinal cannabis, Palliative Care Australia has called for public awareness campaigns on its proper use.
The Commonwealth Minister for Health, Sussan Ley recently announced amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 that would allow the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes through a single national licensing scheme.
One of Palliative Care Australia’s board members, Associate Professor Richard Chye is involved in medicinal cannabis research trials and said that to begin their trials they had to import a product from overseas in powder [form] and do a whole lot of technical stuff to it so they could know exactly what the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) were. If there was an Australian product, researchers would know much more about those levels and what else is in the product and ensure all the elements of the drug are known. Then it could be used consistently across the sector.
That national consistency for growers would also mean states and territories wouldn’t have to develop their own legislation around cannabis as well.
Palliative Care Australia supports further research as “we don’t know for sure what that difference is. That’s why we’re supporting the trials that are underway around the country. We need to better understand the potential adverse drug reactions, for example between medicinal cannabis and other therapeutic drugs.
“At the moment, we welcome any efforts that allow people who are diagnosed with a terminal condition to have access to the drug for pain relief, and that’s in the absence of research that might prove its effectiveness [for this purpose]. Long term, we certainly would be waiting to see what some of the trials produce.
The PCA’s survey indicated a high level of acceptance of the drug, with more than two-thirds of Australians in favour. But it also revealed almost a quarter of Australians remain unsure.
PCA would like to see a public awareness campaign set up to build understanding around the use of medicinal cannabis within the community and across the medical profession.
The next step should be about developing an authority, whether it’s the Therapeutic Goods Administration or a separate body, to regulate the drug and so ensure standardisation of the product as it’s developed for medical use. It will be important for medical practitioners to know the THC and CBD levels in the products they prescribe.