EDITORIAL: Time for medicinal cannabis progress

THE controversial debate over the legalisation of medical cannabis has been thrust into the statewide spotlight over the last month or so, thanks to a couple of news stories centring around The Bunyip’s circulation area.

Last month, the soon-to-be-closed-down Holden Elizabeth car manufacturing plant was invoked as a potential site to base a highly profitable medicinal cannabis corporation, a proposal lauded for its promise to retain industry and employment opportunities in the region, post-Holden.

Then, last week, the Hillier home of self-professed medicinal cannabis activist Jenny Hallam was raided by police, who seized products and equipment alleged to have been related to the production of cannabis oil.

Ms Hallam and her supporters claim – perhaps, rightfully so – that she has just been trying to save lives by making cannabis oil, and those lives have been put at risk by the raid of her operation.

Indeed, there is some evidence – primarily anecdotal – to support the idea that the Cannabidiol (CBD) strain in cannabis, as opposed to the psycho-active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) strain, has curative elements for certain conditions.

However, for the most part, the scientific research into the area has been limited, due to an inability to conduct clinical trials (as a result of the plant’s legal status).

The outlook on this changed on November 1 last year, when the Commonwealth’s amendment of the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967, to allow the “controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes” (under a national licensing scheme), came into force.

Now, governments across Australia are investigating and looking towards cannabis as a potentially viable medicinal option, through a heavily regulated approach.

While there is an argument to suggest authorities have taken too long to entertain this idea – causing a delay in the research of cannabis’ medicinal benefits – it is still too early to confidently say the plant provides a scientifically proven cure for disease.

Ms Hallam may have believed she was doing the right thing, and she could have, indeed, been saving lives.

Until we do the clinical trials and begin cultivating the crop more for medicinal purposes, we won’t entirely know for sure.

Additionally, given the illegal, uncontrolled nature of her operations, she could have been causing more harm than good.

Let’s hope the recent developments mentioned above inspire more action to explore the health benefits of medicinal cannabis, and potentially drive further economic benefits for the region as a result.

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