A Rockingham-based MP is calling for medicinal cannabis to be made more accessible and the drug to be legalized in Western Australia this year – but health professionals and the Health Minister have disagreed with his assertions and warned the public over its addictive qualities.
South Metropolitan MLC Aaron Stonehouse sparked debate in the Upper House late last year, with his Liberal Democrats party calling for additional freedom of choice in Australia.
In WA, medicinal cannabis can be legally prescribed and dispensed through medical practitioners in some circumstances.
However, Mr. Stonehouse said the current legislative process was too arduous.
“The medical uses are starting to become better understood – right now people are using it for chronic pain, to treat symptoms of chemotherapy and treating muscle spasms,” he said.
“There may be more medical applications – there is research on how it could treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other diseases and illnesses.
“Right now there are a lot of people that are sick and they are having a hard time getting prescriptions because doctors have to jump through so many hoops to get those prescriptions.
“It doesn’t make any sense and it is only getting between sick people and their medicine.”
Health Minister Roger Cook said the current model had the necessary safeguards.
“The body of research evidence on medicinal cannabis use is expanding however, the studies available currently vary in design and scientific quality,” he said.
“Most medical authorities recognize that there are many unanswered questions on both the efficacy and long-term safety.
“Given the limits of what is known about these therapies, the current approach is entirely suitable.”
Australian Medical Association president Dr. Omar Khorshid echoed Mr. Cook’s opinion.
“Until we see comprehensive research on the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis, the current model of prescribing medicinal cannabis should stay in place,” he said.
“All medicines on the market have gone through the necessary checks and balances before being approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration – this treatment should be considered as a last resort.”
Mr. Stonehouse also argued that legalizing cannabis for recreational use could take the criminal element out of the drug’s supply, using Colorado in the United States as an example.
He said cannabis had fewer health impacts than alcohol and tobacco.
Mr. Cook said the drug had been comprehensively studied and the detrimental health effects were well-documented.
“Cannabis does cause dependence and, in young people, this is especially high,” he said.
“There are both immediate and long-term harmful effects from consuming cannabis.”
Dr. Khorshid said AMA WA could not endorse the use of recreational cannabis.
“Our emergency departments routinely deal with patients suffering from psychosis caused by the use of cannabis, and long-term use can cause a range of problems such as lung disease and cognitive impairment,” he said.