History was made this month for the people Down Under.
The Australian parliament passed a bill to amend the current Narcotic Drugs Act to legalize marijuana.
But apart from removing the criminal stigma most medical marijuana users feel, this new law will open the door for people who require medical weed to hopefully have better access to the drug.
Despite its illegality, Haslam used medical marijuana to help ease the horrific pain and nausea he endured from chemotherapy before he died last February. His family said that although marijuana improved his appetite and energy, his cancer was too far gone to be reversed. After his death, his mother, Lucy Haslam, petitioned parliament to finally legalize the drug and started an advocacy group, United in Compassion (2).
And now, a year later, it looks her wish that others, like her son, will finally be able to use cannabis without it being a criminal act.
Medical Marijuana In Australia
Australia’s Minister of Health, Susan Ley, also seemed pleased by the bill’s passing.
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“This is a historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals. This is the missing piece in a patient’s treatment journey, and [we] will now see seamless access to locally produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy.” (3)
Now that amendment to the law has passed, a regulatory commission must be set up to oversee the licensing of cannabis farms and the soon-to-be nationwide distribution of various medical marijuana products. This new law now also means people can legally grow their own medicinal marijuana across the entire country.
Cannabis Improves Lives
Countless medical users and advocates of the widely controversial drug claim that cannabis improves the lives of thousands of sick and even terminally ill people who would otherwise suffer needlessly. Where the “approved” conventional medications often fail or result in horrible side effects that often leave patients worse off, cannabis can ease their pain and suffering in most cases. Because of this, several countries are taking a hard look at the efficacy of cannabis and the long list of studies that back it up.
Australian Senator Richard Di Natale used Haslam’s story when he spoke before Parliament on Wednesday. He spoke about how cannabis was the only medication that eased the young man’s suffering and how Haslam’s story is not unique, but a prime example of the positive impact cannabis can have on the roughly 23 million Australians in the country.
“It is incredibly fitting that today we are passing this bill, which is one step towards making medicinal cannabis accessible to people like Dan,” Di Natale said about Haslam.
Lucy Haslam was also pleased, “[Daniel] would really be at peace today. He didn’t want to die…but it would give him peace to know this is going to help so many Australians. I think he’d be proud.” (4)
In her campaign to finally legalize the drug, Haslam estimated that hundreds of thousands of Australians have had to buy cannabis on the black market just to treat genuine conditions like paediatric epilepsy and cancer, not to mention the many other things the plant is said to help like stimulating appetite for people with HIV or treating inflammatory bowel disease and migraines.
These people, including parents who are only trying to help their sick kids, face a real risk of prosecution every time they purchased a medicine they know is helping. The stress of this, coupled with the obvious stress of facing life-threatening diseases, can be almost unbearable for many. This legislation will go a long way to easing that stress.
A Growing Trend
In the US, 26 states and the District of Columbia now have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. And three more states, California, Massachusetts and Nevada all passed measures this month to legalize recreational marijuana use (5).
Canada is soon to follow suit in early 2017 (6).
While the Australian government made great strides legalizing medical marijuana , the Minister of Health made it very clear that the changes don’t affect recreational marijuana use, which is still illegal. But that is a fight for another day, according to cannabis advocates.
In the meantime, people who benefit from cannabis can now buy and use if freely without the threat of prosecution.