Dianah Mieglich says medical cannabis legislation threatens to lose its way

“Where is north?”, I asked my cab driver as he assisted me from the car. 

I had arrived in the CBD of Melbourne and I felt disorientated by the long shadows and grey buildings.

The man looked at me, somewhat puzzled, and hesitantly he pointed in a very general direction. I smiled and thanked him.  

I can’t help but think that a similar sense of confusion has fallen over our policy makers when it comes to medical cannabis. 

I recently spent three days at the United in Compassion Medical Cannabis Symposium, listening to an array of world class speakers and experts in their field sharing their knowledge, their concerns and their hopes.

It is all but impossible to capture every highlight and compelling narrative from the event.

However, what is clear is that the public are overwhelmingly in favour of and are seeking cannabis as a treatment option. 

Prior to the symposium a day was dedicated to a workshop which was Australia's first medical cannabis course, designed for health care practitioners, by health care practitioners. 

Delegates heard heartbreaking testimonials from loved ones who spoke from lived experience.

They recounted their very personal stories and the daily challenges they face in accessing medical cannabis via safe and affordable pathways. 

The veteran community is heavily impacted with scores of returned service men and women in need of effective treatment options for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Cannabis is a proven medicine. 

I would go further and suggest that any of our front-line responders, who dedicate their lives to serving in the Emergency Services, deserve access to medical cannabis as a treatment option when the need arises.

Compassion for those wanting to access medical cannabis is seriously lacking by our legislators. It need not be that way. 

I wonder if our legislators had lived experience of combat, peacekeeping, responding to emergencies and caring for our communities, if their view of medical cannabis would be different?

I suspect it would be.

Delegates heard from Australian Greens Senator, Richard Di Natale, who rightly stated that “forcing patients to act like criminals is the crime”.  

Senator Di Natale again called for an amnesty and access to home grown medical cannabis.

I welcome his move to introduce a Private Members Bill into the Parliament to effect this.

Barrister and writer Greg Barns believes that medical cannabis is a human right, yet in Australia it is still strangled by commonwealth and state government red tape.  

Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and Barrister, Mick Palmer AO, told the audience that there is "lots of support across senior ranks of police for medical cannabis."

So why is it then that so many people are needlessly targeted by police, tying up resources which could be better used in real crime prevention and community engagement? 

It was encouraging to learn that Greg Barns is currently exploring the option of a medical necessity defence for alternative market healers.

Compassionate suppliers do genuinely meet an unmet need, albeit illegally under current law.  

We heard of the incredible opportunities which exist for our ageing population.

We learned that medical cannabis has a role to play, especially in alleviating chronic pain.

The benefits to the economy in terms of the health budget alone are breathtaking.  

Poignant words came from Justin Sinclair, Pharmacologist and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine house at Western Sydney University, quoting Cicero, "Salus populi suprema lex esto" which translates to, “The health of the people should be the supreme law."

Let’s find our bearings, look to the sun and the stars if you must.

But really you need not look further than to the real and valid observations of those who work in this space.

It is those observations and lived experiences which should ultimately inform medical cannabis policy.