'More sick people will be jailed': Confusion over medical cannabis
CONFUSION over medical marijuana will result in sick people being jailed for trying to buy treatment illegally, the Nimbin Hemp Embassy has warned.
The organisation's president, Michael Balderstone, said a workshop being held in the village today aimed to provide clear advice.
"We keep getting visitors who think medical cannabis bought on the streets is legal now," Mr Balderstone said.
"It is not, and people continue to get busted daily ... in fact more than ever before."
Patients can now consult their usual treating specialist and discuss legal therapeutic options.
Cannabis-based medicines prescribed by doctors and legally dispensed have been made to strict quality and safety standards, and are managed in the same way as other legal medicines.
But actually obtaining the medical marijuana can be difficult.
A NSW Health spokesperson said the product could either be imported from a legal source overseas according to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 or, in due course, lawfully produced in Australia under the amended Narcotic Drugs Act 1967.
The spokesperson went on to say products accessed from unregulated sources, including oils, tinctures and plant material, could include harmful substances, and "will not be authorised through this pathway".
However Mr Balderstone said many patients chose to use the local black market because it was easier, faster and much cheaper.
He said the government's plans - including giving licences to growers and manufactures - would eventually see medical marijuana available at local chemists, but his fear is this could take more than a year to implement.
In the meantime, it is illegal to grow marijuana for personal use, even if you are registered to receive it.
Mr Balderstone said the confusion and difficulties around the issue would result in more and more patients being jailed for illegally obtaining medical marijuana products.
Police officers have been given some extraordinary powers in relation to this matter.
The government's Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme now extends to adults with a terminal illness.
Under the scheme police officers can use their discretion to not charge adults with terminal illnesses who use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms, as well as carers who assist them.
For Mr Balderstone, more dialogue is needed.
"The government plans to have it legally available by the end of this year," he said.
"That means licencing growers and manufacturers, while they also have to train doctors and chemists.
"All the while they are ignoring the 50 years' experience Australian growers have.
"There's a huge cannabis culture waiting in the shadows with 100,000 jobs, we estimate, waiting to happen if they regulate the industry like in America. But they're giving it all to big business."
Michael Lambert, who has grown pot to stop his five-year-old's daughter's seizures, has faced the criminal justice system. His family has also given a record $34 million grant to create a cannabis research centre at Sydney University.
He will be speaking about his experience at Nimbin Hemp Embassy's MEDICAN workshop today.
The workshop starts at 11am in the village hall.