Barry backs medical cannabis

06 Apr, 2015 07:08 AM
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Senator Barry O'Sullivan said he had been moved by testimony from people who had sourced cannabis illegally in a bid to ease the suffering of loved ones. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
We've really got to tidy this up and tidy it up quickly
Senator Barry O'Sullivan said he had been moved by testimony from people who had sourced cannabis illegally in a bid to ease the suffering of loved ones. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

SELF-DESCRIBED 'conservative warlord' and Coalition Senator Barry O'Sullivan has thrown his support behind a push to legalise medical cannabis, and expressed confidence federal parliament would support the reform.

Mr O'Sullivan, a former drug squad detective, said his "mind had opened up considerably" over the course of a Senate inquiry on proposals drafted by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale.

Senator Di Natale's bill would create an independent body of experts, the Office of Medicinal Cannabis, which would license commercial growers and determine how cannabis could be prescribed and dispensed.

Mr O'Sullivan said he had been moved by testimony from people who had sourced cannabis illegally in a bid to ease the suffering of loved ones.

In Sydney on Tuesday, Lucy Haslam, the mother of the late medical marijuana campaigner Dan Haslam, criticised the NSW government for moving too slowly to provide sick people with access to the drug.

"We cannot afford to wait for the results of clinical trials," Ms Haslam told the hearing. Her son died in February, five years after being diagnosed with cancer. "Don't dismiss the urgent need of people now."

NSW Premier Mike Baird credited meeting Mr Haslam with changing his view on medical cannabis, which led to his government announcing clinical trials.

Those trials, for childhood sufferers of intractable epilepsy and chemotherapy-related nausea, are being planned and, if successful, could lead to legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes. Paediatric epilepsy patients will first be enrolled in 2016.

Mr O'Sullivan said it was possible that "tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of just ordinary, everyday Australian mums and dads" were risking prosecution to obtain cannabis for their loved ones. He said because cannabis was illegal they did not have any assurance of the quality of what they were buying, and were forced into contact with criminals to obtain it.

"We've really got to tidy this up and tidy it up quickly," he said. "There's a real big body of evidence that there's something in this.

"This is one of those ones where it seems as though solutions are just as clear as the nose on your face."

Still opposed to recreational cannabis

However, Mr O'Sullivan said he remained firmly opposed to the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

Mr O'Sullivan, who worked as a detective for 17 years before entering parliament, praised Mr Di Natale for his initiative, and other members of the Senate committee for the "collegiate" approach they had taken to the issue.

"We'll be putting some energy into this to make sure it's walked through our respective parties, and as long as we get the detail right, I think we'll get an outcome here," he said.

Mr Di Natale said medical cannabis was "an idea whose time has come", adding he had been encouraged by the support his bill had received from all sides of politics.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, Liberal MP Sharman Stone and Labor MP Melissa Parke are among the parliamentarians to express support for medical cannabis.

Senator Di Natale said the challenge was to draft the best legislation possible. He hoped parliamentary debate of the bill might start by the middle of the year.

- with James Robertson

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READER COMMENTS

Bushfire Blonde
6/04/2015 1:05:59 PM

Why doesn't Senator O'Sullivan get in behind fellow Senators John Madigan, Nick Xenaphon and Bob Katter all pushing for a better deal for businesses that are - 1) Operating in Australia 2) Borrowing from Australian Banks 3) Exporting their product Get in behind the ARDB or a similar body that would give these businesses real relief instead of band-aid after band-aid.
Queensland Medicinal Cannabis Collective
6/04/2015 2:23:32 PM

Bushfire blonde I'd imagine your comment would be better excepted somewhere else & in regards to priority , people are dying without the option of legal cannabis therapies. Sorry businesses can WAIT!
Makka
6/04/2015 4:52:41 PM

No offence, Barry, but I suspect many of your colleagues have been smoking this stuff illegally for years judging on performances!!
John NIven
6/04/2015 5:08:54 PM

QMCC, why be so selfish? This is not an either/or.
Consolidated
6/04/2015 6:59:11 PM

Yep without CBD our daughter would be a shade of her today self. From 30-50 seizures a day down to around 5. One thing is for sure, everyone one day will need CBD to treat a serious medical challenge. But the biggest bang for buck atm is in epilepsy and cancer. CBD is good against inflammation.
bobster
7/04/2015 7:40:09 AM

Congratulations to Barry on having the guts to change his perspective. Most politicians don't have this courage of their conviction. He should talk to the Sex Party member of the Vic Parliament, Fiona Patten, though on some of the issues around legalising. The Greens first draft of their Bill didn't even nominate which portfolio the new regulatory regime would come under. Ms Patten actually admits to using cannabis for pain and pleasure and is one of a very few politicians who are totally honest about marijuana.
Supporter
7/04/2015 9:38:45 AM

Barry is forward thinking and needs support. Medical Cannabis is not used for fun. This is for seriously ill people with no hope or any reliable treatment available. I have seen first hand how this can be a miracle. We need treatment for many illnesses that science has no answers for.
Consolidated
7/04/2015 6:33:51 PM

Watch the doco 'Run from Cure' by Rick Simpson.
Richard Wilton
12/04/2015 7:35:38 PM

Well done Barry.

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