Australia about to make medical cannabis legal

| February 12, 2016

The federal government has just introduced legislation to parliament to allow the cultivation and use of medicinal cannabis. Sean Hall, CEO of Medlab, which conducts therapeutic cannabis research, says this is a huge step forward for Australia.

Therapeutic cannabis means different things to different people. To most it implies medical cannabis referring to the use of the whole plant or the basic extracts to treat illness, disease or its associated symptoms.

This is where we at Medlab differ in opinion and research outlook and why research and understanding are so important if cannabis is to be a viable medicine supporting the patient community.

For cannabis to be therapeutic, it must become a medicine, and like most medicines we need to understand what varying doses do to patients with different medical problems and conditions. This allows for the development of guidelines around toxicity and known side effects.

Think about it this way, you would not necessarily give an adult dose of a drug to an infant without good reason based on fact. Cannabis is no different. There are a multitude of species, environmental growing conditions, plant growth additives and chemical compositions resulting from leaf to head, male to female plants. Cannabis is by nature a complex and interesting plant.

Robust research is paramount in understanding the factors that influence the potential that would convert cannabis into a viable therapeutic and beneficial medicine.

Presently in Australia there seems to be a cultural change where politicians are becoming more pro-cannabis, and in time we will see (at least in our opinion) a greater shift in socio-political acceptance of cannabis as a therapeutic medicine – but I say this with caution, as research must be undertaken and time given to mitigate as much risk as possible.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley’s initiative marked a giant leap forward for Australia, and regardless of how sensitive one is to the issue, it demonstrates the government’s desire to listen, understand and represent the community’s medical unmet need. It’s the first step towards fast tracking a new therapeutic, and whilst the naysayers may wish to hit in on this point, I want to highlight that cannabis is still an illicit drug.

Our own research and development cycle is around chronic diseases, and in most of these, pain is usually a comorbitiy. Cannabis at the time was a logical research point for us, as we feel that, whilst opioid pain medication is warranted, we can no longer afford our love/lust affair with opioids. Cannabis theoretically provides a safer, less toxic option and is well placed for both nasal and ingested therapies.

Last week we’ve witnessed commitment by the government; time will tell if the government continues its pro-momentum in medical cannabis. For now, we welcome the news and see this announcement as not only positive for the community at large, but potentially beneficial in accelerating current and future development.