unreliable dosage. Inhaling is effective and quick, taking only 50 seconds to get into the bloodstream (unlike a pain pill) and, helpfully, patients can stop puffing when they feel it working, perhaps meaning smaller doses. Cannabis oil
is often used for young children with epilepsy, but is also used for adults. Despite the urgent need for more
knowledge, researchers’ hands are tied. “I don’t usually work on cannabis much,” says Dr Christopher Vaughan from the Pain Management Research Institute at the University of Sydney. “Getting THC is difficult and expensive because of all the regulations and restrictions.”
However, not everyone’s afraid of the law. You might have seen Tony Bower on TV in police raid footage, standing beside thirty-odd cannabis plants in a remote part of the NSW bush.
Tony founded Australian medical cannabis company Mullaways, which produces cannabis oil for medicinal use. In the footage, police ask him what he’s doing. “Well – each of these plants represents a person we’re helping,” says Tony, exasperated.
Tony supplies Nicole Cowes,
whose daughter Alice has a rare
form of epilepsy that gives her 30 seizures a day. Since taking the oil, Alice only has the occasional seizure, and is no longer taking a cocktail of anticonvulsant medications. Tony supplies Nicole without charge, as he does many other people, including Star. He is frustrated at the government,
but not worried. “There’s a lot of people suffering out there, for no reason,” Tony says. “I put my head
up, so the government had someone
to concentrate on. I’ve got broad shoulders,” he adds.
And Tony is no hack. He gets his products regularly tested at the University of NSW (at least he did, until he says the authorities shut that lab down, too). What’s most surprising about Tony’s product
is that, he says, because the THC content is below the legal 0.5 per
cent limit, his oil contains no illegal substances. It’s just growing the plant that’s illegal. Mullaways is amongst several organisations ready to begin production of cannabis as soon as the law is changed or clinical trials are approved.
A GREEN LIGHT
Things are starting to spark up in Parliament. The NSW Nationals MP Kevin Anderson has announced his intention to introduce a private members’ bill to approve the use of cannabis by terminally ill patients. NSW health minister Jillian Skinner has also softened her stance on clinical trials of medical marijuana. Support is also stirring on
a national level. A previously existing federal cross-party parliamentary group for drug law reform, whose members include Dr Sharman Stone MP (Liberals) and Senator Dr Richard Di Natale (Greens), is getting the band back together to try to push past party politics. “To me, it’s a matter of being compassionate,” Stone says. After making her pro-medicinal cannabis views public, she received tonnes
of emails, all in favour of the drug.
“I think it’s a cruel thing to withhold
a pharmaceutical to a dying person.”
She adds that the ability to regulate
the industry is already within the Government’s power. “If we need to grow the product in Australia, we’ve already got a model for doing that via our poppy growing,” (referring to Victoria and Tasmania growing poppies successfully for morphine). “Our next step is probably going to be a private members’ motion.
It needs to be driven nationally.”
In August this year, a Melbourne couple were raided and questioned by police after giving their three-year-
old son cannabis oil for seizures. Greg Barns, a barrister and a spokesman
for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, is representing the couple. “I think it’s time for the courts to take a lead,” says Barns. “Unfortunately, Australia tends to do things more slowly. But I do think within five years we will see medical cannabis available to Australians.”
Meanwhile, Natalie Daley has more stress to deal with than just coping with cancer; she’s overrun by people calling her for help. “I have influxes of people wanting oil,” she says, even though she doesn’t make it. “These people are in pain... we need to get across to politicians how useful this plant really is.” WH