A NSW parliamentary committee has taken the bold step of recommending cannabis be available in leaf form to ease the suffering of the terminally ill.
Patients with cancer, full-blown AIDS or other fatal diseases would be allowed to possess and use up to 15 grams of dry cannabis.
But they wouldn’t be able to grow their own cannabis and would need to buy the drug from illegal dealers.
Committee chair Sarah Mitchell said people at the end of their life who used cannabis to relieve their pain or stimulate their appetite shouldn’t be criminalised.
The upper house committee is calling on the government to amend the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, describing the move as “both appropriate and compassionate”.
Patients would need to be certified by a treating specialist, who would put them and their carers on a register overseen by the NSW Ministry of Health.
Labor MP and committee member Adam Searle said they had heard “compelling evidence” from individual sufferers as well as clinicians.
“The unanimity across the political spectrum sends a very clear signal to the government that these recommendations should be very closely considered,” he told reporters.
The committee – which included Liberal, National, Labor, Greens and Shooters party members – was unanimous in its findings.
“The challenge now is to the leaders of all political parties to come on board with what now is a humanitarian relief effort,” Greens MP John Kaye said.
“This is not going to feed any recreational use of cannabis. We are talking about people who are mostly about to die.”
The report stated its preference for cannabis-based pharmaceuticals but noted only one such product, used to treat multiple sclerosis, was available in Australia.
It also called on Health Minister Jillian Skinner to write to the commonwealth – which governs the regulation of drugs – to advocate expanding the current scheme.
Committee member and Labor MP Amanda Fazio conceded the issue of supply was a tricky area that needed further investigation.
Labor MP Luke Foley said the issue was now firmly back on the political agenda.
Eighteen states in America have legalised the use of cannabis for medical purposes, along with Canada and Israel.
By Tara Ravens