PUBLIC HEALTH (MEDICINAL CANNABIS) BILL 2017

10 August 2017

Second Reading Speech in NSW Legislative Assembly

Ms TAMARA SMITH ( Ballina ) : The Greens wholeheartedly support on the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2017 and commend the Labor Party for introducing it. The Bill seeks to decriminalise the use and possession of cannabis for medical purposes and establishes a scheme for cultivating, manufacturing and supplying cannabis for medicinal use. The Greens welcome the bill, which is similar to a bill introduced by the late Dr John Kaye of The Greens in the upper House—the Drug Legislation Amendment (Cannabis for Medical Purposes) Bill 2014. I take this opportunity to quote the late Dr John Kaye because he described the reform so well. He stated:

This is a bill of compassion and empathy. This is a bill of rationality and courage. It is a bill to end the timidity and the hysteria induced by the war on drugs.

 

This is a bill for people who are dying. It is a bill for people who are suffering appetite loss and nausea from chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment for cancer. It is a bill for people for whom opioids and other drugs do not provide relief from neuropathic pain or on whom the side effects are so drastic they cannot use them. It is a bill for very young people who are suffering from the debilitating and life-shortening impacts of tractable epilepsies, including Dravet syndrome. It is a bill for people who suffer from spasticity and other diseases and syndromes that cause spasms and who do not receive benefits from other drugs available to them.

The bill was based on the May 2013 report of Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 4 entitled "The use of cannabis for medical purposes", which recommended that a medicinal cannabis card be created for the terminally ill and those suffering from the effects of human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] and that the possession of the card would create a complete defence from prosecution for the possession of 15 grams of crude cannabis by a patient holding a card and by a carer holding a card. This recommendation was unanimous. However, while the Government has made some important steps towards ensuring patients have access to medical cannabis, so far it has failed to change the law to ensure that the possession and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is a full defence under the criminal law.

My father, who passed away in January, had to go to great lengths to ask relatives—not me but his sister—to get him cannabidiol oil, which gave him enormous relief. He could not drive and he knew he was committing a crime. This is just crazy. It is not acceptable for the Government simply to rely on a scheme where police are asked not to enforce existing law; the law needs to be changed. A person is eligible to participate in this scheme if he or she has an illness or condition that is likely to result in death within a reasonably foreseeable period, or a serious illness or condition that is likely to result, or to continue to result, in a significant reduction in the person's quality of life, whether from the symptoms of the illness or condition or from treatment for the symptoms of the illness or condition.

People should be able to make such a decision and they should have that option. The bill prohibits the use of medicinal cannabis in a public place and limits the amount that can be possessed. It also allows the Government to set up regulation scheme for the cultivating, harvesting, manufacturing or producing, storing or supplying cannabis. The Greens join with the Opposition in calling on the Government to support this bill to alleviate the pain and suffering of thousands of people who are facing serious or terminal illnesses. The point is not lost on me that the late Dr John Kaye died from cancer. I know that he would be very happy if by some miracle the Government supported this bill. The Greens will continue to advocate for sensible evidence-based drug law reforms.

Volunteer