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Why I am a proponent of Medicinal Cannabis. My story & why I want to hear yours

March 17, 2021
Dianah Walter

A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events, a story.

Everybody has a story or knows someone with a story when it comes to Cannabis. For every positive story, there are many which do not have happy endings.

It is my aim to empower you to have the courage to share your stories with me so I may effect change with others who are already making inroads.

If you had asked me 30 years ago, I would have fiercely opposed any decriminalisation or legalisation of Cannabis. However, my mantra is now “Education is the Key.”  I have taken the time to educate myself and the science is breathtaking.   This means that now my view is very far removed from that of the 80’s and 90’s.

The war on drugs is futile. Drugs are a health and social issue. Dr Alex Wodak, AM who among other things, is the President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation has stated that “current drug policy is politically motivated and ultimately unsustainable”.  I agree.

It is time to wake up Australia and develop and implement smart, pragmatic policies which will deliver better social, health and justice outcomes for Australians.

There is so much stigma still surrounding Cannabis, much of it stemming from its prohibition in the 1930’s and the unfounded claims about the plant.  There is still a lot of work to do to bring alignment between those who are opposed to full legalisation and those who know and understand it is not a matter of if but when. 

Regulation not only has the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue but there are significant social, health and environmental benefits too.

Every year thousands of Australians die from alcohol related disease and trauma.  To date, there have been zero deaths from Cannabis, ever.  There are about 15 deaths every day related to alcohol and that does not cover off on those living with chronic illness as a result of alcohol consumption.

So where do you fit into this picture?

It is simple – I need you to tell your stories about your experiences in accessing and using medicinal cannabis. 

Personal narratives are powerful instruments of change. Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.  You do not always have to raise your voice to be heard, it is often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

When my father was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer about 12 years ago – it was not operable and metastasised to his bones - he died in September 2009. It was during that time I started my quest for better treatment options for him during the palliative time.

Cannabis was an option but, for me though, accessing it felt futile.  It was a criminal act to access it.  Not much has changed – though legal now – the patient access pathways are cumbersome and expensive and medical professionals are mostly uneducated and unwilling to consider cannabis as a treatment option.

Not putting too finer a point on it, the lead up to Dad’s death was painful and we ‘lost’ him long before he took his last breath, mostly because the opiates he was prescribed for pain relief rendered him so sedated he could not communicate.  All activities of daily living were provided for him by my sister, my mother and me. 

It was an undignified death for a dignified man.  My fight for better access to Cannabis is both personal and ongoing.

Personally, I consume prescribed and alternative market  CBD oil for neuropathic pain and to aid sleep.  

Through my advocacy over the years, I have received contacts, enquiries and have taken questions regularly.  It is a telling sign of the society we live in when there are so many people who may benefit from Medicinal Cannabis therapy and yet affordable and simple access is all but unreachable.

Fast forward to 2021

Whilst there is a Federal legal framework (from 2016) for access to Medical Cannabis the States/Territories have the responsibility for regulation.

Safe, affordable patient access pathways remain the challenge.  It is currently not permitted for any doctor who prescribes Medicinal Cannabis to actually advertise that they do.

There is a lot of information about the efficacy of Cannabis, in fact the many claims that evidence of its efficacy is anecdotal are flawed. There is robust scientific, peer reviewed evidence and at last count more than 17,000 scholarly articles that speak to its benefits.

If the science and medical benefits are not enough then what of the economic benefits? 

It is understood about 1 million Australians have turned to the alternative market in Australia, a market which is estimated to be worth $4.5Billion in Australia each year. It does make you think!

Professor Simon Eckermann, Senior Professor of Health Economics at the Australian Health Services Research Institute and University of Wollongong has published  the paper Health Economics from Theory to Practice.  It includes full Medical Cannabis policy illustration.  This publication is a must for all Parliamentary Libraries and Health Policy units.  A preview can be found here:

This is a great interview to listen to and the transcript is available to read.  Simon Eckermann in conversation with Dr Norman Swan on ABC Radio National’s Health report. 

For me, and many others, Cannabis has an important role to play in aging.

It perplexes me that the TGA can tie Medicinal Cannabis up in so much red tape that it is out of reach for most and that the AMA are not more supportive of GP education around Medicinal Cannabis and the streamlining of the process of prescribing.  Not to mention updating the curriculum for those currently training to become doctors and allied health professionals.

There is a shift in public opinion regarding Medicinal Cannabis.

Our current and aspiring legislators must take heed!

I will continue to advocate for a legal framework that not only allows for affordable access to whole plant medicine but also to fast-track the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Compassion for those wanting to access medical cannabis is seriously lacking by our legislators. It need not be that way.  I wonder if our legislators had lived experience of combat, peacekeeping, responding to emergencies and caring for our communities, if their view of Medical Cannabis would be different? I suspect it would be.

Let’s find our bearings, look to the Sun and the stars if you must, but really you need not look further than the real and valid observations of those who work in this space. It is those observations and lived experience which should ultimately inform Medical Cannabis policy.

I say again…..personal narratives are powerful instruments of change.

Be an advocate – tell your story – Don’t raise your voice, simply improve your argument and help me lobby for Cannabis Law Reform which will benefit, not harm our communities.

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