Medicinal cannabis trial too slow, rebel doctor tells crowd

David Stevens and his eight-year-old daughter Deisha Magic-Stevens, who has been taking cannabis oil to treat chronic seizures for one year at the Nimbin medicinal cannabis workshop on Saturday. Deisha’s quality of life has been vastly improved through the use of the drug.
David Stevens and his eight-year-old daughter Deisha Magic-Stevens, who has been taking cannabis oil to treat chronic seizures for one year at the Nimbin medicinal cannabis workshop on Saturday. Deisha’s quality of life has been vastly improved through the use of the drug. Hamish Broome

A MAVERICK Sydney doctor who sacrificed his career to treat epileptic kids with cannabis oil has warned the NSW Government's trial of medicinal cannabis will progress too slowly to save hundreds of sick children.

Andrew Katelaris was deregistered in 2005 for refusing to stop supplying cannabis oil to the families who had turned to cannabis in a last hope to treat their children.

He spoke to a packed Nimbin Town Hall at Saturday's medicinal cannabis workshop - the second event in as many months.

Dr Katelaris said the lives of dozens of children had been transformed through medicinal cannabis.

One of his patients was eight-year-old Deisha Magic-Stevens, from Coffs Harbour, whose chronic seizures were being treated unsuccessfully by a cocktail of eight different pharmaceuticals until her father David tried cannabis oil a year ago.

"She's been seizure-free for over 10 months now," Mr Stevens said.

"Before this she couldn't read, she couldn't write, she couldn't function … she can now read, write, she's enjoying life; she's doing things a normal eight-year-old should be doing."


The Stevenses went public and had support from Coffs MP Andrew Fraser and Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack, who helped bring Deisha's case to Premier Mike Baird, paving the way for children to be included in the trial.

But Dr Katelaris said the NSW Government's overly bureaucratic approach to the trial risked letting red tape get in the way of saving lives.

"They have failed to appreciate the clinical urgency; if someone's having a cardiac arrest, you don't call a government inquiry… you give them the best treatments available at the time.

"We want to stop those illnesses which are life-threatening."

Dr Katelaris said he had submitted a "firm" Expression of Interest to the Government to grow clones of hundreds of plants to supply the trial - so he has a personal stake in a local supply industry going ahead.

"We could be doing it in three months."

"The concern is (government) will go to Europe to have some manufactured or even some synthetic (cannabis) issued ... that they're not really serious about a local large-scale industry."

Nimbin-based hemp farmer Andrew Kavasilas has also submitted an EOI for supplying cannabis for the clinical trial and said he was working jointly with a Queensland university in the bid.

He said pressure needed to keep up on the trial, citing an older inquiry into medicinal cannabis by former NSW premier Bob Carr that went nowhere.

Nimbin HEMP Embassy president and organiser Michael Balderstone said the embassy had been "flooded" with inquiries since the trial was announced and more regular workshops were planned.

Topics:  cannabis, medical cannabis

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