Medicinal cannabis campaigner Lucy Haslam has responded to the Federal Government's announcement that it will legalise medicinal cannabis with a cautious welcome.
After losing her son Daniel to cancer in February this year, the former nurse has been heavily involved in political discussions surrounding legalisation.
"I am pleased that politicians are ready to get on board but I hope and pray that the outcomes are in the best interests of the patients and that reform is more than political grandstanding," she said.
Over the past year, Ms Haslam has grown increasingly impatient with political delay and has been working on her own initiative to make medicinal cannabis accessible.
She has told Australian Story of a radical plan to grow and supply cannabis herself, and has already assembled a team to work on the Tamworth-based project.
"At the moment we are looking for a property in Tamworth to set up a small research and development facility," Ms Haslam said.
"My goal is that in the short- to mid-term we'll be able to produce a product to supply people like Dan who need compassionate access to medical cannabis now."
The team has recently applied for a New South Wales Government exemption to cultivate the drug and is waiting for a decision.
If successful they will be able to grow cannabis for research and development purposes. The ultimate aim is to supply patients who register under a 'compassionate access scheme' which is still being developed.
I honestly think that medicinal cannabis would not be where it is today without Lucy's intervention together with Dan's.
NSW Premier Mike Baird
Such a scheme would ensure that medicinal cannabis would not only be accessible to all those who require it, but would be priced appropriately.
"The long-term goal is for medicinal cannabis to be legalised, but further to that we need to make sure that when it's legalised it's affordable," Ms Haslam said.
Ms Haslam and her husband Lou, a former drug squad officer, have put their cafe and gift shop business on the market to help fund the project in Tamworth.
The Haslams' plan is also supported by Daniel's widow Alyce.
"I think Dan would possibly be a little bit surprised knowing that his mother is planning on setting up a cannabis centre in Tamworth, but I mean this whole journey has been full of surprises," she said.
Haslams the 'driving force' behind medicinal cannabis change
PHOTO: For three years Lucy Haslam's son Daniel experienced debilitating nausea as a result of chemotherapy and only gained relief when he began using cannabis as a medicine. (Supplied: Paul Mathews)
Ms Haslam is widely credited as the driving force behind various state and federal initiatives aimed at legalising the drug.
She and Daniel, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at age 20, started campaigning for legalisation when forced to access cannabis from the black market.
NSW Premier Mike Baird told Australian Story that he was persuaded to act on the issue after meeting last year with the Haslams.
"It was very clear listening to the story that I wanted to do something," he said.
"I honestly think that medicinal cannabis would not be where it is today without Lucy's intervention together with Dan's.
"They have turned this debate on its head and I think the country has turned with her."
A staunch opponent of recreational drugs, Ms Haslam admits her journey has been a strange one.
"I'm in a constant state of amazement at how weird my life has become. I would gladly give it up and have Dan back in a heartbeat but that's not the way life is. We just had to do this, we had no choice," she said.
Medicinal Cannabis legislation efforts:
- The Federal Government has announced that it will seek parliamentary support before year's end to allow the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes. Patients may be able to access regulated medicinal cannabis as early as 2017.
- The Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014, a private member's bill which had cross-party support, was to have been tabled in parliament in November by the Greens. It would have established a regulator independent from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which would have overseen a scheme to make medicinal cannabis available to patients who qualify for treatment.
- The NSW Government has announced a series of clinical trials to commence in 2016. They include trials for children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy; adults with terminal illness, focusing on improving quality of life and symptoms such as pain, nausea and vomiting; and adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, where standard treatment is ineffective.
- Last December the NSW Government announced a scheme to protect certain categories of patients in possession of limited quantities of medicinal cannabis from prosecution. Patients need to register with the Government.
- The NSW Government has also established a Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation to oversee clinical trials, research and education.
- The Victorian Government has announced that it will legalise access to locally manufactured medicinal cannabis for use in exceptional circumstances from 2017 including for children with severe epilepsy.
- The Victorian Government will also establish an Office of Medicinal Cannabis to oversee the manufacturing, dispensing and clinical aspects of the framework.
Original source ABC News