The consumption of cannabis is still a touchy subject between those who want it legalised and those who don’t. Who is right and why should we care?
Forget better roads and transport, cannabis research is where dollars seem to be heading at the moment.
Following a report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission, the Victorian government have announced a cannabis cultivation trial. The commission seeks law reform to allow people to be treated with medicinal cannabis in exceptional circumstances. In New South Wales, the state government have allocated a budget of ten million for trials of medical cannabis over the next four years. Thanks to this financial boost, Australia is expected to be at the forefront of advances in medical marijuana research.
It’s a lot of money for a lot of planned research, but is it money well spent? There is already a wealth of research and completed studies proving medical cannabis as a natural and effective method of treatment for many conditions. In California, law reform has led to the establishment of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) who have already revealed that the use of medicinal cannabis is an effective treatment for people suffering from chronic problems such as back pain and migraines.
Earlier this year, Australian businessman Barry Lambert and his wife donated $33 million to Sydney University for medicinal cannabis research. The Lambert’s saw first-hand how cannabinoids (compounds found in cannabis) helped their granddaughter who lives with epilepsy and did not respond to conventional treatment.
Even though cannabis was initially banned following a League of Nations summit in 1925, it was only in the 1950s that Australia followed the trend and officially banned it on the grounds that it was recognised as dangerous as opium. The Hemp Party has been fighting for the recognition of the health benefits involved with the use of cannabis since it was founded in 1993.
Michael Balderstone, president of the Australian Hemp Party, highlights the need for medicinal cannabis in Australia if only for the jobs it creates. “Hemployment is very real,” he told The Newsroom. “Colorado and Vancouver each have about 20,000 jobs happening in the weed industry.” He is also certain that even though the research budget is allocated for four years, it will take at least six years for the debate to emerge and for Australia to possibly see medicinal cannabis legalised.
Mr Balderstone warned The Newsroom that trials aren’t as easy as you think: “The latest is there is no real weed to be used, as technically they cannot legally source any and the cops burn tonnes confiscated.” When asked if we truly need to have research on the medicinal use of cannabis in Australia, Mr Balderstone highlighted the important amount of previous research. “Is it 15,000 research articles on mediweed? I think it is. I’m all for research but not while everyone else remains a criminal and the Newcastle research is tragic and increasingly looks like a front for GW Pharmaceuticals to get $50 million worth of research done on their products. Scary!” he said.
Is all that research budget a façade? Is it another way to alter and soothe the debate? It sure seems like the government is trying hard to research, but could we not rely on the research done elsewhere, such as in America where it became legal in Colorado in 2014.
John Michael Peck of Durango, Colarado is well aware and appreciative of all the economic benefits that cannabis has had in his hometown. “Well first, I am a cannabis consumer, and have been for a while, but since the laws changed in Colorado, I can only see positive outcomes,” he told The Newsroom. “Whether it’s the booming tourism industry or just a lot more businesses and bars opening in Durango. I can’t seem to find the bad side that the legalisation of cannabis has had in Colorado,” he admits. “Sure people can abuse it, but people abuse all kind of things, alcohol, cigarettes, food, and so on, but there will be huge health savings in time.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Drug Free Australia (DFA) is a peak body composed of all the different organisations who believe that cannabis should stay illegal and that its possession, production and consumption should remain criminal activities. Their main argument is health related, as they don’t see medicinal marijuana as the best health option for Australians. “Drug Free Australia takes a compassionate, and scientifically based position in the debate on Cannabis for Medicinal purposes, commonly known as ‘medical’ marijuana. Our position against the use of the substance is aimed at gaining the best health outcomes for all Australians,” they said.
The DFA also argues that there is no control over the proper use of medicinal cannabis in the States, which would also be a problem in Australia, as it is primordial to have strict control of the drug’s use if it’s being legalised. Perhaps the real debate lies in the arms of social acceptance and standards. Are the social stigmas associated with its use still relevant in Australia, or are they passée? Like many other countries, Australia should be ready regardless, as cannabis consumption isn’t decelerating. – Niuhiti Gerbier
Top photo from Edward the Bonobo’s Flickr photostream.