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Medicinal cannabis: a new frontier

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Medicinal cannabis: a new frontier

Medicinal Cannabis Symposium will bring international experts to the Sunshine Coast.

A symposium born out of the tragic death of a 24-year-old cancer patient is coming to the Sunshine Coast at a pivotal time in the medical industry.

The region will play host to the 2022 Australian Medicinal Cannabis Symposium this month, just as the Therapeutic Goods Administration begins trialling over-the-counter medicinal cannabis treatments.

Medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016, thanks to Lucy Haslam and her late son, Dan.

The drive for change began after Dan was given a terminal stage four bowel cancer diagnosis. Medicinal cannabis was the only way to alleviate the serious symptoms and debilitating side effects of his chemotherapy but there was one problem – it was illegal in Australia.

With Mrs Haslam a retired registered nurse, the pair began campaigning to legalise pharmaceutical products.

Mrs Haslam, who now lives in Flaxton, says after going public many other patients began to come forward and Australian support to change the law grew rapidly to around 97 per cent.

Realising the interest and beginning United in Compassion, Australia’s Peak Medicinal Cannabis advocacy body, in 2014 Mrs Haslam and Dan held the first symposium three months before the young man tragically lost his battle.

Medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia on February 24, 2016 on the first anniversary of Dan’s death and a new industry was born.

“I feel proud of what Dan and I achieved by changing the law in 2016,” Mrs Haslam says. “There was hope for the tens if not hundreds of thousands of patients Australia wide who were breaking the law to access what was an effective medicine for a wide range of debilitating symptoms and illnesses.”

“But there are many patients who still struggle to get access to the medicine they need. They can’t afford to buy it legally or can’t find a doctor willing to prescribe it.

“Events like the symposium are vital in showing Australian health professionals and politicians that cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for many patients.”

After three cancellations due to the pandemic, the symposium will go ahead from May 20 to 22, featuring experts in the field, a trade exhibition, a nurses’ conference, a health professionals’ event and gala dinner.

The Symposium will explore the use of cannabis to manage intractable epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and the side effects of cancer treatment.

For more details and tickets, visit unitedincompassion.com.au.

What is medicinal cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is a medicine that comes from the cannabis sativa plant, commonly called marijuana. This plant is the same one used to make the recreational drug of the same name, which is illegal in Queensland and most states and territories. However, medicinal cannabis and the recreational drug should not be confused. Medicinal cannabis most often comes as a pill, oil or nasal spray and its use is very highly regulated in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

What is a cannabinoid?
Research has found that the cannabis plant produces between 80 and 100 cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids that have therapeutic benefits are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The main difference between the two cannabinoids is that THC has strong psychoactive effects, meaning it makes a person ‘high’, whereas CBD is thought to have an anti-psychoactive effect that controls or moderates the ‘high’ caused by the THC.

Accessing medicinal cannabis
A patient living in Queensland must access medicinal cannabis through a doctor who is authorised under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme administered by the TGA. *Sources: Therapeutic Goods Administration, Queensland Health and Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

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