Plea for cannabis ac­cess

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - ERIN PEAR­SON

A GEE­LONG man who nursed his dy­ing part­ner through her final days with the help of medic­i­nal cannabis oil says de­lays and red tape in its roll out is caus­ing wide­spread suf­fer­ing.

Ja­son Lit­tle­wood said there had been lit­tle progress de­spite the Fed­eral Govern­ment con­di­tion­ally ap­prov­ing its use ear­lier this year.

“My con­cern is when peo­ple go to the doc­tor to ask for it be­cause they’re in pain, how does the doc­tor judge some­one elses’s pain. I’ve spo­ken to doc­tors here in Gee­long al­ready who say they won’t pre­scribe it no mat­ter what be­cause of the taboo around it,” Mr Lit­tle­wood said. “We’ve got to get real about this.

“Gee­long has the abil­ity to pave the way for this treat­ment but the stalling and wait­ing now, and the red tape around peo­ple’s abil­ity to ac­cess it is go­ing to see peo­ple suf­fer.”

He said his part­ner, Narelle Don­ald, was kept alive for 13 months us­ing “one or two rice grains” of cannabis oil three times a day af­ter he made the sub­stance il­le­gally for more than a year.

Ms Don­ald died last Oc­to­ber af­ter mul­ti­ple rounds of chemo­ther­apy ther­apy.

But de­spite Vic­to­ria tak­ing steps to­wards help­ing chil­dren with se­vere epilepsy to ac­cess medic­i­nal cannabis from next year, oth­ers re­mained out in the cold with­out ac­cess, Mr Lit­tle­wood said.

On Oc­to­ber 19, the Se­nate united in sup­port of Aus­tralian Greens leader, Richard Di Natale’s pri­vate Bill to open up ac­cess to medic­i­nal cannabis for ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients.

This Bill aims to se­cure ac­cess to medic­i­nal cannabis for pa­tients with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness, and cre­ates a level play­ing field for the emerg­ing medic­i­nal cannabis in­dus­try.

Sen­a­tor Di Natale said the next step was to have it pass through the Lower House.

“These pa­tients are dy­ing and their doc­tors be­lieve medic­i­nal cannabis may al­le­vi­ate their suf­fer­ing, but the Govern­ment is stop­ping them from get­ting it,” he said.

“This Bill will en­sure that medic­i­nal cannabis is avail­able un­der cat­e­gory A of the spe­cial ac­cess scheme — whether it is im­ported or pro­duced here in Aus­tralia.

“We want to sup­port Aus­tralian medic­i­nal cannabis sup­pli­ers to pro­duce do­mes­tic sup­ply.”

Last year Par­lia­ment le­gal- and ra­dio- ised medic­i­nal cannabis use in Aus­tralia for some pa­tients.

All medic­i­nal cannabis prod­ucts need to be pre­scribed by a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner as part of a treat­ment plan.

Bar­won Health has also been part of a trial with the Univer­sity of NSW and is look­ing at the ef­fec­tive­ness of med­i­cal cannabis in al­le­vi­at­ing symp­toms and pain in ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients.

State Health Min­is­ter Jill Hen­nessy said the State Govern­ment was call­ing on the Com­mon­wealth to add the medicines to the PBS.

“In March, the State Govern­ment im­ported a medic­i­nal cannabis prod­uct so that 29 of Vic­to­ria’s most se­verely ill chil­dren and their fam­i­lies could have peace of mind ac­cess­ing a safe, le­gal, qual­ity con­trolled medic­i­nal cannabis prod­uct in a safe clin­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” Ms Hen­nessy said.

“The Com­mon­wealth has now opened up ac­cess to any pa­tient who has the sup­port of a med­i­cal spe­cial­ist. It now needs to show it is se­ri­ous by bring­ing them into the PBS as soon as pos­si­ble.

“Here in Vic­to­ria we’re get­ting on with de­vel­op­ing the first ever Aus­tralian made le­gal medic­i­nal cannabis prod­uct, and a thriv­ing medic­i­nal cannabis in­dus­try.”

Pic­ture: MIKE DUGDALE

GIVE THEM AC­CESS: Ja­son Lit­tle­wood is ad­vo­cat­ing for pa­tients to gain ac­cess to med­i­cal cannabis af­ter los­ing his part­ner, Narelle Don­ald, inset, to can­cer.

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