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More MS news articles for May 2004

Medical trial of cannabis runs out of puff

May 13, 2004
Paola Totaro
The Sydney Morning Herald

A pioneering trial of cannabis for medicinal use has stalled in NSW and will not be able to proceed without major changes to federal customs laws and new therapeutic drug approvals.

The Premier, Bob Carr, said yesterday that NSW would not decriminalise marijuana nor allow people to grow the plant in their backyards.

He said importing cannabis products would require legislative support from the Federal Government. He had written to the Prime Minister, John Howard, asking for Federal Government input into finding a solution.

"Let there be no misunderstanding: the NSW Government has no intention of decriminalising cannabis use," Mr Carr said.

"That means we need to look at the alternatives, and that in turn requires co-operation from the Commonwealth and, I hope, from the other states and territories."

One alternative, which he held some reservations about, could include importing cannabis products from Canada under strict conditions. This would require changes to both customs laws and new approvals under the therapeutic drugs regime.

"Canada and eight American states, including Colorado and Washington, allow the use of cannabis for strictly medicinal purposes. I have therefore written today to the Prime Minister asking for co-operation in this complex and delicate matter."

Mr Howard has previously supported the trial but only if the cannabis was delivered to patients in a form other than smoking and as long as people were not allowed to grow it.

Mr Carr said there was clear and growing evidence that cannabis could reduce nausea from cancer or HIV-related chemotherapy, muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, wasting related to HIV and severe and chronic pain associated with these conditions.

The NSW Government signalled in 2000 that it would investigate the legal, medical and constitutional issues involved in the medical use of cannabis.

It has since become clear that finding a method of delivery for the active ingredients in cannabis is more difficult because the Government's preferred option, an inhaler spray, is some years away from being approved in Australia.

Mr Carr said for some people waiting for this option might be too late and it was important to explore alternatives, which might include importing drug products grown legally in Canada.

Copyright © 2004, The Sydney Morning Herald