Medicinal cannabis legalisation can reduce opioid deaths, comedian Wil Anderson says
April 05 2017 1:31 PM

Comedian Wil Anderson has spoken about using medicinal cannabis on a regular basis as a remedy for osteoporosis that he has been suffering from for years. He emphasised that the product, should it be legalised in Australia, could save lives.

Speaking as a guest on The Project on Tuesday, the comedian said he hoped the country would legalise the drug soon. “Three million people have chronic pain in this country and it’s a thing where they normally will diagnose you open opioids, and there’s this amazing opioid addiction as a result,” he said.

He compared Australia with the United States, where medicinal marijuana is allowed, noting that deaths caused due to opiod addictions in some states have decreased by a third. Anderson made an appearance on US comic Doug Benson's “Getting Doug with High” Youtube show in 2014, where he was seen puffing on a weed pipe. Anderson has been prescribed heavy painkillers in the past, which, he said, resulted in “massive, serious side effects.”

According to a 2015 research, there has been a large increase in the number of people being treated for addition to painkillers like codeine and oxycodone in the nine years from 2002. The findings, gathered from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW, has prompted authorities to introduce changes regarding the administration of painkillers.

A few Australian states have launched trials for cannabis oil as a form of treatment of certain health issues. Nevertheless, the programs, being in their nascent stage, are heavily regulated.

Anderson’s comments concerning making access to medicinal cannabis easier come as doctors in the country find obtaining permission for prescribing the drug to patients suffering from chronic pain terribly difficult. As a result, the State Government is on the receiving end of immense pressure to make the access of the drug easier.

Draft South Australia Government guidelines dictate that the authority to prescribe medicinal cannabis lies solely with specialists. Although no specific criteria have been released, the doctor responsible for prescribing the drug should be an oncologist. Until now, three medical professionals have applied for approval to the state government to be allowed to prescribe the drug.

To be able to prescribe the product, the medical professional will need to get the approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the state Drugs of Dependence Unit (DDU). A spokesman for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said a Special Access Scheme B form is required to be filled to get the approval from TGA. “States and territories have their own legislation around access to medicinal cannabis, including what type of practitioner can prescribe,” the spokesman said.

University of Melbourne gets $500,000 from Turnbull Government for research into medicinal cannabis plants

April 5, 2017 12:01am

THE Turnbull Government is giving Melbourne researchers almost $500,000 in a bid to fast-track local production of medicinal cannabis plants.

It is hoped the pilot program, run by the University of Melbourne, will improve how scientists extract the parts of cannabis plants which can be used for pain relief.

The researchers, who have teamed up with Under The Three Biopharmaceuticals, will analyse different types of weed crops to decide what will grow best in Australian conditions.

They say it could spur the development of a local cannabis industry — which could be worth $150 million with demand for 8000 kilograms of plants every year — and prevent patients from having to resort to black market treatments.

A grant of almost $500,000 could fast track the production of medicinal cannabis in Australia. Picture: File.
The $466,000 grant will be announced on Wednesday by Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who said the government was keen to get the “best minds” from universities and businesses working together “to come up with solutions to problems Australia faces”.

“We’re backing this project because we can see the clear benefits of having local medicinal cannabis production and a local supply chain for the many patients that stand to gain from the use of medicinal cannabis products,” Senator Birmingham said.

Professor Tony Bacic, who is part of the University of Melbourne research team, said Australia “has the potential to become a major player” in growing cannabis crops, given our strong agricultural track record.

The Victorian Government harvested Australia’s first medicinal cannabis crop earlier this year, which is expected to be available to treat children by the middle of this year.

The Herald Sun reported last month that supplies of the drug had also been imported from Canada to provide immediate treatment for 29 children suffering from multiple seizures every day.

Prof Bacic, the director of the Plant Cell Biology Research Centre, said scientists were taking advantage of recent law changes to try and cultivate cannabis plants for Australian conditions.

He said they were trying to develop “state of the art separation technologies” to extract the medically useful parts of cannabis plants while depleting the psychoactive elements.