A clinical trial for medical cannabis will be established by the NSW Government to further explore the role that cannabis can play in providing relief for patients suffering from a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses.
Premier Mike Baird said the NSW Government has formed a Working Group to set up the clinical trial, due to report back by the end of 2014.
Mr Baird said the Working Group will consider all relevant issues including the scope of the trial, as well as advice from experts regarding the most efficient way to advance the availability of safe and effective cannabis derived products.
“There are concerns around the issues of supply and distribution and these will be covered in the trial,” Mr Baird said.
“I hope the trial will bring some clarity to this area and enhance our understanding of the medical use of cannabis.”
Mr Baird also announced NSW Police guidelines will be implemented to formalise the current arrangement which allows Police to exercise their discretion not to charge terminally ill adults who use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms, or their carers.
The NSW Police guidelines will be similar to existing arrangements under the Cannabis Cautioning Scheme, which provide Police with a formal discretion to caution but not charge adult offenders detected for minor cannabis offences involving personal use.
“By formalising existing NSW Police discretion when dealing with a terminally ill patient using cannabis, and their carers, we hope to lighten the burden of stress for sufferers and their carers.
“We want the terminally ill to have greater peace of mind. We do not want carers having to watch their loved ones suffer when their distress could be alleviated.”
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest cannabis used for medical purposes may provide relief to patients suffering a range of serious illnesses.
“That is why we are embarking on the clinical trial – so we can better understand what role medical cannabis can play in alleviating symptoms in some seriously ill patients,” Mr Baird said.
The NSW Government is leading the reform of medical cannabis with the Victorian Government next week considering a bill to make it easier to conduct medical cannabis clinical trials.
The NSW Government will also commence discussions with other Australian jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth to place the use of medical cannabis on the national research agenda.
Mr Baird thanked National Party Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson for raising this issue, and paid tribute to the Haslam family for going public with their plight.
Daniel Haslam, 24, is battling cancer and has been using cannabis to alleviate his symptoms.
“I was struck by the courage and determination of the Haslam family when I met with them and have enormous sympathy for the battle Dan faces every day,” Mr Baird said.
“What we want to do is improve his quality of life and for people like him, and I hope this reform does just that.”
Mr Anderson said, “We need to show care, compassion and help these people when they need it most, and that’s what we are doing today.
“I congratulate and thank the Haslam family for their courage and the people of Tamworth who have rallied behind this push. This is indeed people power at work and I am privileged to be able to lead the charge for them.”
Mr Baird also said that the Government would be using the reforms as an opportunity to remind the public that cannabis remains an illegal and dangerous drug.
“Medical cannabis is not a black and white issue but the NSW Government’s stance on illegal drug use is,” Mr Baird said.
“These reforms are about compassionate care. Recreational use of drugs is illegal and will not be tolerated.”
A number of international jurisdictions have approved the use of crude cannabis for medical purposes, including 23 US States, the Netherlands, Canada and Israel.