Thoughts from our ALDAF Drug Education Consultant, Brenda Hosking and Ambassador, Andrew Fuller

Currently there is a growing community and political debate whether support should be given to developing trials for growing and prescribing medical cannabis.

Proponents of medical cannabis argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases and other conditions.

Opponents argue that it is too dangerous to use, has limited TGA-approval, and that various legal (synthetic) drugs make cannabis use unnecessary. (ProCon.org, 2016) Phytocannabinoids are the naturally produced chemicals within the cannabis plant. Importantly, some cannabinoids, such as THC, have a psychoactive effect. Others, such as CBD, do not have this effect, and have been linked with anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic and antipsychotic effects and other potential uses. (Copeland, 2017)

The door has been opened for Australian farmers (David Claughton, 2017) and speculative medical cannabis companies (AustralianStockReport, 2017) to grow cannabis plants for use in drug trials and for a limited number of Schedule 4, 8 and 9 medical uses. (TherapeuticGoodsAdministration, 2017)

The potential benefits of administering medicinal cannabis is particularly encouraging for children with severe epilepsy or patients with chronic pain or wasting diseases who are susceptible to multiple seizures, spasms, nausea or a lack of appetite. Overall the evidence would suggest it has the capacity, when used appropriately, to alleviate suffering and distress.

At this stage, it would be dangerous to consider any use of medical cannabis as a ‘cure’ but there is potential for monitored use to help ease the severity of symptoms.

Medical cannabis is approved for use in other countries including Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

It appears preferable for medicinal cannabis to be prescribed and monitored under the supervision of a medical professional. Unwarranted side effects, such as driving under the influence or perhaps an increase in psychosis, are potentially more problematic when a drug is self-prescribed.

For more information, go to the Alcohol Drug Information Network, www.adin.com.au and use the tags medical, cannabis

REFERENCES

AUSTRALIANSTOCKREPORT 2017. Medical Marijuana: Should you buy into

these companies? In: EXCHANGE, A. S. (ed.) 2017 ed.

COPELAND, J. 2017. An overview of medical cannabis [Online]. University of

New South Wales. [Accessed 2017].

DAVID CLAUGHTON, A.-N.-S. 2017. Medicinal cannabis market offers new

opportunities for agriculture [Online]. ABC Rural.

Available: http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-02-22/medicinal-cannabisnew-

agricultural-opportunity/8287346 [Accessed 2017].

PROCON.ORG. 2016. 60 Peer-Reviewed Studies on Medical Marijuana

Medical Studies Involving Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts (1990 – 2014)

[Online]. Santa Monica, CA USA: ProCon.org.

Available: http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/ [Accessed 2017].

THERAPEUTICGOODSADMINISTRATION 2017. Scheduling delegate’s final

decisions: Cannabis, May 2017. In: ADMINISTRATION, A. G.-D. O. H.-T. G. (ed.).

Canberra, ACT: Australian Government – Department of Health.

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