Posts for September 2017

Legal implications for medicinal cannabis

Monday, September 25, 2017 4:00pm


Since at least the 1960s there has been active debate in the community both here and overseas as to whether the use of cannabis should be legalised. Robert Kennedy once noted that as a result of powerful lobbying by tobacco companies, the sale of cigarettes, which were killing many thousands of Americans, remained legal whilst marijuana was not.

More recently, the focus has been on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. 

Earlier this year Olivia Newton-John reported that her previous breast cancer had metastasized to the bones. She spoke of her treatment regime which included the use of medicinal cannabis which was readily available to her in California. 

A number of studies have found cannabis to be therapeutic, particularly in treating seizures where the condition is resistant to more conventional forms of treatment and to treat severe pain such as in some end-stage terminal illnesses.

State Parliament is currently considering a Bill to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis in South Australia.

The Police have expressed understandable concern to ensure that the public is not put at risk by, for example, drivers of motor vehicles being affected by medicinal cannabis.

The critical issue is the content of a chemical in cannabis which, in its shortened form, is called “THC”. This is the component of cannabis that causes intoxication. There are also some forms of medicinal cannabis that do not contain any THC but may be less effective in particular cases. 

One of the difficulties with regulating cannabis use is that there are many variables as to the extent to which a particular level of THC may affect the functioning of a person. It is for this reason that there would be difficulty, for example, in prescribing a “legal limit” of THC while driving, as is the case with alcohol. The detection of particular drugs in a person’s system does not give an accurate indication of their level of impairment. 

I think the community is ready to accept the use of medicinal cannabis in a regulated regime which does not put members of the public at risk. That would involve appropriate regulations to control the type of cannabis permitted for medicinal purposes and a form of accreditation for doctors to ensure that it is appropriately prescribed, having regard to the individual concerned and that any relevant restrictions in activity are clearly addressed. It is not only on our roads that we need to be careful. Many operate machinery either at work or at home and it is important that they, and their colleagues or relatives and friends, not be exposed to a risk of injury either in the workplace or elsewhere.

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