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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 August 2015) . . Page.. 2820 ..

MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (10.24): I am pleased to make some brief comments about the inquiry into the exposure draft of the Drugs of Dependence (Cannabis Use for Medical Purposes) Amendment Bill 2014. As a member of the committee it was fascinating to hear the stories of those people who have had cause to use cannabis for medicinal purposes and the views of many other stakeholders involved. As a MLA and in other roles I have had in the community, including as a family member, I have heard many stories about people with a terminal illness or chronic disease and the compassionate grounds for allowing anything that will assist someone in those dire circumstances. I am sure many of us here have had similar approaches from people in the community.

As members of the committee we understand that some individuals who are suffering are keen to seek access to medicinal cannabis and indemnity from prosecution in order to help them manage their illness or condition. There are compassionate grounds that support that. But what I feel is really important is to have the evidence base to support that, and at this time it does not appear as though there is sufficient research and trials to make that case. I would like to see research and trials take place.

There is not unanimous community support in principle for a medicinal cannabis scheme, but I believe the support the committee heard outweighed the views against. It is also worth nothing, though, that there are some health risks associated with the use of cannabis, both known and unknown at this point, especially with regard to long-term usage. The effects of long-term cannabis use are relatively unknown. Whilst the committee does not support the bill in its current form, it has been a really useful catalyst for the Assembly to have this discussion and move forward on the medicinal use of cannabis. That is a positive thing.

Of all the recommendations in the committee’s report, the one I would really like to draw attention to is recommendation 6, which supports a national approach to medicinal cannabis and encourages the ACT government to continue to work with the commonwealth, states and territories on a national medicinal cannabis scheme. As some of my colleagues on the committee have outlined, we have been waiting for the report at the federal level which has not yet been made available. We heard strong support for a national approach from the AMA, ACT Policing and the Deputy Chief Health Officer. For a range of reasons, a national approach will be what suits the ACT best.

I thank my fellow committee members; it was a collaborative discussion we held with deliberative meetings. Thank you to Dr Bourke, Ms Fitzharris and Mr Wall and the previous committee member, Ms Berry, for their assistance. I also thank the secretary, Ms Nicola Kosseck, and Ms Jenny Mundy, Ms Sara Redden and Ms Lydia Chung for their assistance during both the public hearings and the deliberations of the committee.

Most especially I thank all of those who appeared or made submissions. For many of those who made submissions or appeared before the committee in the public hearings, they were very, very personal stories about people who had gone through one of the most traumatic times in their lives—parents of young children with terrible diseases, adults with elderly parents perhaps nearing the end of their lives and in terrible pain.

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