This policy relates to the legalising of medical cannabis through the normal prescription system. Discussion about the legalisation of recreational marijuana is outside of the scope of this policy statement. That is something society can decide at a later point after further debate. Download the .pdf here.
The human body was made to work with the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids in cannabis extract dock with cannabinoid receptors in the human body to strengthen the body's own immune system. Yet this plant has been banned since the 1930s, when the medical benefits became obvious. This allowed the Pharmaceutical Industry to produce much more expensive drugs that they could protect with patents. These protected drugs have been used to generate massive profits.
Policy overview: Legalise Prescription Cannabis
Our policy is to add medical cannabis to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and allow for the prescription of natural medical cannabis from your local GP by way of a prescription filled through a chemist. The product must be made in Australia and must be natural, not synthetic. Cannabis will also be rated by strength and cannabinoid composition. Consistency is essential for effective therapy. Cannabis oil should be dispensed as a single product and also as a kit, allowing patients suffering serious conditions to blend an appropriate solution to suit their needs.
Transition period. It takes years to get anything onto the PBS, although one might ask - why? In the interim it will be necessary to introduce arrangements that make this therapy available now. Allowing producers to apply for a license to produce and Chemists for a license to stock and sell should suffice. That will involve the Police doing background checks on growers and the health department approving producer quality. Chemists are already vetted enough. Age limit on purchase should be 18, with patients under 15 requiring medical supervision.
Quality Control. The biggest problem in medical cannabis is the consistency of strength and blend of cannabinoids. The reason that we want to put this through the PBS is to put in place a control system that should guarantee quality and consistent strength.
Medical Benefit of Cannabis
Throughout the bodies of every human on the planet is a physiological system that plays a crucial role in establishing and maintaining human health. The endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), discovered by scientists unafraid of studying marijuana, is made of endocannabinoids and their receptors which are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.
The goal of the ECS is to maintainwithin your body.
While the human body produces its own version of endocannabinoids to stimulate these receptors, scientists have discovered that phytocannabinoids, plant-based substances, can also stimulate these cannabinoid receptors. The most well-known, and most psychoactive phytocannabinoid is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is derived from the cannabis plant. However, other, non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of healing properties. There are currently 111 known cannabinoids, each with a different function in the human body.
There are over 20,000 articles searchable on PubMed detailing the effects of “cannabinoid”(s). New research has shown that cannabis is an effective treatment for a myriad of ailments, including:
- Epileptic seizures, see this landmark study and human story here
- Depression here
- Cancer & leukemia here and human story here
- PTSD here
- Autism here and human story here
- Pain - in States with Legal Cannabis painkiller deaths fell 25%
Natural not Synthetic
Synthetic cannabis is simply a chemical made by pharmaceutical companies that mimics the operation of natural cannabinoids. Now you may wonder why would we go to the trouble of making a chemical to copy the one that we can get easily from the cannabis plant. The reason is patents. Big Pharma cannot patent a natural cannabinoid. However if they can synthesize a cannabinoid then they can patent that and charge what they like for it.
This is why natural cannabis is still illegal. All State Premiers and the Federal Government are stalling on the cheapest, simplest and most effective option - outright legalisation of medical cannabis in order to give their donors in the Pharmaceutical industry time to develop chemical copies that they can patent. This will be a major profit centre for them as long as the natural plant remains illegal to cultivate.
Now we do not object to synthetic cannabis, however with recent trials of synthetic cannabis killing some participants, we would ask for extensive safety testing first.
Also remember that there are 111 known cannabinoids, each working on a different combination of receptors and healing different parts of the body. So synthetic cannabis is not one drug, it will take years to synthesize the variety we have now in natural cannabis.
Social Effects of Legal Cannabis
As someone who grew up with the anti-cannabis message, I expected that when American States started legalising marijuana all hell would break loose. I was wrong. This is a summary of the effects that were noticed in the 13 States that have legalised marijuana:
- A 10% reduction in suicides;
- A 9% decline in fatal road deaths;
- A 10% reduction in crime and a 5% reduction in serious crime (this has been as high as 30% in high crime areas);
- A reduction in prescription drug use - 80% of users switched from prescription medication to cannabis to treat their condition;
- A 2.8% reduction in marijuana use amongst the young with no increase in other drugs;
- Sick days fell, study here. It seems that cannabis has fewer side effects than prescription drugs allowing patients to be more productive. One could also argue that in the USA people cannot afford medication so suffer through illness, in Australia they can afford to be treated. So this effect may or may not be applicable locally.
Financial Benefits of Legalising Cannabis
Reduced Medicare costs. When given the option, 80% of users switch out prescription pharmaceuticals for cannabis extract. If the savings being documented in the United States hold true for Australia, we can save Medicare about $500 mllion a year by legalising cannabis.
Reduced Law Enforcement - Police, Courts and Jails cost less to run. Based on Colorado this should save us around $100 million p.a.
Taxation & the economy. Mainstreaming a previously illegal industry will generate income tax on the employees and company tax on the profits. Remember also small local companies actually pay tax, Big Pharma does not. Estimates of the value of legal medical cannabis suggest that the industry could be worth $1 billion p.a Importantly it is an import replacement industry, with most pharma drugs being manufactured overseas being replaced with locally produced cannabis. Remember the government takes a third of all economic activity in Australia, so the Government should have a net financial gain of $300 million from this new industry.
Read about Denver's cannabis boom here, which should dispel any doubt about legal cannabis.
In summary, legalising medical cannabis will add $300 million to government revenue, save Medicare $500 million, and also save on policing, court and detention costs. Productivity also increases and import replacement has a multiplier effect on the local economy - which generates more economic activity to tax. It is fair to say that legal cannabis will be a billlion dollar windfall to the federal government.
Medical Cannabis provides the opportunity to create and grow small, Australian pharmaceutical companies, offering safe and ethical products, growing local employment and creating local wealth.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains next to no THC, making it as safe as any other crop. It was banned to make room in the fibre market for DuPont's chemical fibres like nylon and polyester. Hemp should be legalised and all restrictions on cultivation and sale removed. Hemp can be used for fibre, cosmetics and fuel/oil. It should be considered an import substitution industry with a potential value in the billions.
Common Questions & Thoughts
Read the Australian Cannabis Industry Senate Submission
Highly recommended: Australian Cannabis Industry Association