Medicinal Cannabis - Question Time

4th April 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( La ke Macquarie ) ( 15:06 :20 ): My question is directed to the Premier. Will the Government consider implementing a moratorium on the prosecution of persons for the use and supply of medical marijuana while the Government oversees clinical trials and develops a definitive policy?

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN ( WilloughbyPremier) (15:07:42): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question. I know he feels very strongly about this issue and I am grateful he has given me the chance to respond to his concerns. Our government is proud to support the most vulnerable people in the community among whom are people suffering from a range of serious illnesses, including people who are receiving palliative care and children with intractable epilepsy. That is why I am especially proud that our Government continues to lead the reform of medicinal cannabis in Australia, driving greater access to safe and effective cannabis-based medicines in the State under a framework that puts patient safety first. Since September 2014 our Government has invested $21 million to increase access to medicinal cannabis for people suffering from a range of serious illnesses. The first step on this journey in 2014 was to establish the Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme, a program that extends compassion to adults with terminal illness who use cannabis and—in direct response to the member's question—by providing guidelines for New South Wales police officers to help determine the appropriate circumstances in which to use their discretion not to charge. As at 12 December 2016, 310 people with a terminal illness had registered for the scheme.

It is important to note that this scheme formalises the inherent discretion of New South Wales police officers not to charge any individual where particular circumstances exist. I am advised that officers have exercised and continue to exercise that inherent discretion for compassionate purposes in relation to medicinal cannabis. As the member for Lake Macquarie is aware, a review of the scheme is underway and the concerns that he has identified are exactly the ones being examined as part of this review to consider whether we need to do anything further beyond what is already happening.

We accept as a Government that it is not only compassion that is needed. We also need to increase access to safe and effective cannabis-based medicines. That is why we are funding three clinical trials to investigate the benefits of medicinal cannabis: for terminally ill adults in palliative care; for chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea and vomiting; and for children with severe drug-resistant epilepsy. These trials are helping us to build the evidence around medicinal cannabis and to draw on the research from some of the world's leading doctors and researchers in this field. I appreciate the member raising these issues and I assure him that guidelines exist to treat people with compassion in specific circumstances, but the reviews we are undertaking will provide advice to the Government as to whether there is more we need to do. I thank the member for the question.

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