THE NSW Government could soon be growing its own pot on behalf of sick children.
In announcing a long-awaited trial of medical cannabis on Sunday, Premier Mike Baird said the Government was prepared to harvest its own if efforts to import the drug failed.
The Government has earmarked $9 million for at least three separate trials to test whether cannabis-derived medical products can provide relief for patients, including one trial for children who suffer from a rare form of drug-resistant epilepsy.
A Medical Cannabis Expert Panel led by NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant will be formed to manage the trials. Mr Baird said the project would harness the expertise of NSW-based clinicians and researchers, alongside the latest research from across the globe.
"Once we have the clinical evidence that medical cannabis can reduce suffering then the Government will consider a range of supply measures, including importation," Mr Baird said.
"But if that does not prove successful then the Government will assume responsibility for supply itself."
Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the trial for children would be run in partnership with leading epilepsy experts from The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children's Hospital.
"These experts will assess medicines derived from cannabis plants on the basis of the same risks and benefits as any other medicine," Ms Skinner said.
The Government will also invest in two further clinical trials for adults with terminal illness and those with chemotherapy-induced nausea.
No prosecution for terminally ill cannabis users
TERMINALLY ill adults who already use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms will be protected from prosecution in a scheme announced by Premier Mike Baird to coincide with the trial of medical cannabis.
New guidelines will assist NSW Police officers in determining when and how to use their discretion not to charge adults with terminal illness who use cannabis, or the carers who assist them.
To register for the Scheme, NSW residents aged 18 or over are required to have their terminal illness certified by a medical practitioner who is registered in Australia and involved in their ongoing care.
"I am hopeful the trials will help us to better understand what role medical cannabis can play in alleviating symptoms in seriously ill patients, while the Scheme will help to lighten the burden of stress for those suffering."
Further information about the clinical trials and the Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme can be found at http://www.nsw.gov.au.
NIMBIN HEMP Embassy president Michael Balderstone said the trials and associated Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme was a "terrific move" by Mr Baird.
"At least he's made a move in the right direction - I imagine these trials could include quite a number of people," Mr Balderstone said.
Controversially however, Mr Balderstone said he believed there was no real difference between the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis.
"They've got this funny thing about whatever happens no one's allowed to enjoy themselves you've got to be terminal before you're allowed to have it."
"People come home from a hard day's work and smoke a couple of pipes - is that recreational or is it medicinal?"
"I believe it's a medicinal herb. Eventually I think the line between medicinal and recreational usage will evaporate."
He added that he hoped police would be given "very wide discretionary powers" in the scheme and would perhaps "leave Nimbin alone".