18 January 2017


The Adelaide Advertiser reports

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged doctors to apply for access to imported medicinal cannabis for seriously ill patients until Australian-grown versions of the drug become available.

Mr Turnbull on Tuesday warned patients against buying cannabis oil from unlicensed suppliers because the drug could cause them serious harm, but advocates say that accessing the drug through legal means is “extremely difficult and extremely convoluted”.

Police last week raided the home of Hillier woman Jenny Hallam, who has provided cannabis oil products to about 100 clients.

Mr Turnbull said doctors could apply for permission to prescribe imported medicinal cannabis products until a local industry was established.

“If a doctor has a patient who they think might benefit from an imported medicinal cannabis product, then they should contact their health department in the relevant state or territory, and/or the Therapeutic Goods Administration,’’ the Prime Minister told ABC radio Brisbane.

The federal Parliament last year approved the cultivation of medical cannabis crops in Australia and clinical trials of medical cannabis products are underway.

Medicinal cannabis products are used to treat a range of conditions, including severe epilepsy and nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Mr Turnbull on Tuesday rejected a push by One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson for an amnesty for unlicensed medical cannabis suppliers.

“The Department of Health is concerned that patients are treating themselves with a powerful medicine sourced from the illicit market,’’ he said.

“There are no controls over the safety and quality of medicines bought this way. Recently in NSW for example, two women were hospitalised because the strength of the cannabis that they used in their treatment was much higher than expected.’’

But Ms Hallam on Tuesday said the process for accessing medicinal cannabis through a doctor was “extremely difficult and extremely convoluted”.

“If people can go and access it as easily as Mr Turnbull says, why are they going to the black market?” she said.

Ms Hallam, who gives away her products to ease the pain of the sick and terminally ill, was reported by police earlier this month after officers raided her home and seized products and equipment related to the production of cannabis oil.

Adelaide-based Australian Cannabis Corporation founder Ben Fitzsimons said regulations were making it almost impossible to access medicinal cannabis through doctors.

He said roadblocks included the need to have documentary proof that a patient had tried all other relevant conventional drugs and they did not work and only allowing specialists to write prescriptions.

Under current South Australian regulations, only specialist doctors can apply for access to imported medical cannabis. Permission would be required from state Substance Abuse Minister Leesa Vlahos and the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The SA Government will hold a roundtable meeting on January 30 on the establishment of medical cannabis and industrial hemp industries in the state.

Australian Medical Association SA president Dr Janice Fletcher said checks and balances needed to be in place when prescribing medication to ensure people were protected from harm, exploitation and bad advice.

“Our advice to doctors will be to follow the evidence when it comes to prescribing decisions — for medicinal cannabis or any other drug,” she said.

“Our advice to patients will be to look to their medical specialists for advice, not ‘Dr Google’, and not to be afraid to ask questions.

“And, of course, there is a big difference between medicinal cannabis that comes through a regulated pathway and other forms of the drug, which can have significant health risks.’’

Greens upper house MP Tammy Franks said most doctors lacked the training needed to treat patients with medical cannabis.

“Lots more need to be done. There needs to be more from SA Health to make sure doctors are trained,’’ she said.


Also reported in the Guardian