Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis

Wednesday 18th of May, 2016
Legislative Council

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:56 :28 ): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes the February 2016 passage of the Federal Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 enabling a national licensing scheme for the controlled cultivation across Australia of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes;

2. Notes the April 2016 passage of the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 through the Victorian parliament which will establish an office of medicinal cannabis and give patients in that state legal , safe and secure access to medical cannabis to those in need;

3. Notes medical cannabis law reform could offer both local job opportunities and would ensure that South Australia n s are no longer forced to choose between suffering needlessly and breaking the law to access medicinal cannabis; and

4. Calls on the South Australia government to take action on medical cannabis to allow for the production and supply from the farm to the pharmacy.

This motion states that this council notes the February passage of the Federal Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 enabling a national licensing scheme for the controlled cultivation across Australia of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. It also notes the April 2016 passage of the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 through the Victorian parliament which will establish an office of medicinal cannabis and give patients in that state safe, legal and secure access to medical cannabis for those in need.

It also notes that medical cannabis law reform could offer South Australians not only the healthcare that they need but also local job opportunities and urges the South Australia government to take action on medical cannabis from the production to the supply, from the farm to the pharmacy to the patient.

I stood on Parliament House steps today and launched this motion—it is obviously not the first time I have brought this issue of medical cannabis to this place, but I launched this particular motion standing with the Fulton family. The Fulton family, as some members may be aware, are a family from Victor Harbor. They have two young daughters, Georgia-Grace and Tabetha: both those girls have a degenerative lung condition.

Both those girls saw their families and their mum and dad (Bobby and Marcus) pack up their belongings, have a massive garage sale and take the kids off to Canada to get the treatment that they need. In Canada, they have successfully been able to access medical cannabis. They have been able to take those young girls from a life where they are in wheelchairs, on oxygen tanks, unable to attend school, unable to go surfing, which they love, and unable to participate in the range of activities that should be the markers of any healthy childhood.

In Canada, through medical access to cannabis in Canada they have been able to not only access the medications but, indeed, restore their lives. The health of those girls in Canada was restored and they went from being too ill to participate in ordinary life to, in fact, being back in the best of health and, of course, spirits.

But, the Fultons do not live in Canada, they live in Victor Harbor. So this family came home just over a month ago now, but here in this country access to medical cannabis is still not legal, and in this state particularly there is no hope in sight that it will be. If the Fulton family lived in Victoria they would be taking heart from Premier Daniel Andrews' leadership on this issue, and from the recent passage of legislation that was quite wholeheartedly supported across parties in that state, which will see by 2017 the beginning of access to medication in that state.

In fact, as we would be well aware, access to medication is the end of the line; the growing has also begun in Victoria. Premier Andrews, just a week ago now, posted online on social media the first crop to produce the first medical cannabis in that state. Victoria is surging ahead. In New South Wales, which has long led the way in this area, Premier Mike Baird has not only overseen in that state a system where access, in terms of medical trials that he announced some years back now, will soon be able to be undertaken through that, with priority given in the first trial to children with epilepsy. Certainly children with intractable epilepsy have shown time and again that it is a condition very much supported and alleviated by medical cannabis.

But of course the Haslam family there and Dan Haslam has had a profound impact on Premier Baird in that state. Dan Haslam passed away some months back now, but Lucy, his mum, continues the fight. Lucy, working with the Nationals, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, recently launched what she hopes will be the first New South Wales medical cannabis farm just outside Tamworth, at an undisclosed location.

Lucy is an astounding woman. Last week she held, convened and hosted the second national symposium of United in Compassion. That is an organisation that has come together to further the progress of medical cannabis in this country and help us catch up to other nations around the world where medical cannabis is old news rather than untraversed territory. There, Dan Haslam, with his particular condition and his particular cancer, was wasting away, in significant amounts of pain and unable to eat. His parents, who had had been long-time law-abiding citizens—his dad a police officer and his mum in the medical profession as a nurse—decided to access illegal cannabis for their son so that his quality of life could be restored. They were amazed by the impact, and to their credit they want that benefit of medical cannabis in the future, which is now too late to help their dead son Dan, for families such as the Fulton family.

In Queensland Premier Palaszczuk has announced that from next year that government will see from external sources the possible provision of medical cannabis. In the Northern Territory they are surging ahead. In WA they are surging ahead. In Tasmania there is a memorandum of understanding with the New South Wales government to grow the crops that will be required. Tasmania has undertaken extensive work into this area, and certainly has had an extensive inquiry that this state could draw on, which shows the benefits not only for the health budget but indeed for the regional economies where this product could be grown.

The health economics alone show that this is not just a boost for that jobs budget, but it is a saving for the health budget. Health economist, based at the University of Wollongong, Professor Simon Eckermann, has noted that just on palliative care and chronic pain alone we could be seeing savings to our budget in the first years of at least $730 million a year, rising up to the billions soon thereafter. That is simply for chronic pain, yet there are so many conditions that medical cannabis could be employed for in this country.

We need to have a look at ourselves in South Australia. I think the other states are leaving us behind and leaving us in their wake. As I referred to, Professor Simon Eckermann is a South Australian originally, so I think he has a soft spot for us. He was quick to point out at the United in Compassion conference that, particularly in the South-East of our state but many parts of South Australia, the climate in South Australia would be prime growing opportunities for medical cannabis. He points to the Mediterranean climate and the many benefits that could have.

I stood also not just with the Fulton family today but with Garry Davies and David Dempsey, local farmers from the South-East who just want a future for the region. They want a future in growing medical cannabis and they have approached me to go into bat for them because so far they have not had much interest from government. Yet, around this state we see such a need for jobs, for boosts to regional economies, for boosts to outer metropolitan economies.

I simply point to an example from overseas in the United States where an old Hershey's factory has been converted into a medical cannabis production facility. Surely, we would not ever have any chocolate factories going out of production anytime soon, but certainly we have many other parts of our manufacturing industry looking for new ways forward and ways to create job growth.

I think that in this place we often avoid new issues or issues that seem difficult to grapple with because of the significant levels of nuanced legislation that impact on them. Previously that was the case for medical cannabis in this state because the federal parliament had not acted, yet now the federal parliament has acted. It has opened the way.

The reality is that the federal parliament and that particular piece of legislation, while it will create the opportunities to cultivate this product, it will not make all of the linkages necessary to ensure that young Georgia-Grace and young Tabetha can live out their lives happily and healthily in Victor Harbor and not be medical refugees made to flee back to Canada.

Other states are stepping up, other states are leading the way. They are Liberal states, they are Labor states. It is time for South Australia to stand up for young kids like Georgia-Grace and Tabetha and to see no more Dan Haslams in our midst. I will be offering members a briefing from Professor Eckermann about the health economics of medical cannabis. I will look forward to a response from government that starts to take seriously, not just the health benefits and outcomes that could be had from this, but indeed the job opportunities. With that, I commend the motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens .


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