With not even a media release from the health minister to mark the occasion, the government slid through a quiet change to medicinal cannabis access here in Tasmania on July 1 2021.
Quiet perhaps because the rest of the country, every other state and territory, made the same changes three years ago!
As advocates for medicinal cannabis patients we have been lobbying for change for seven years. Offering our time to politicians and their advisors so that they might understand the needs of patients using or wanting to use medicinal cannabis in Tasmania.
Did they listen? Evidently not.
Now, I am sure if you were to ask the minister for health (or either of his two very recent predecessors) he would tell you they have listened to expert advice and are now acting in the best interests of patients. Advice that they have been tardy in following. For over the last four years just some twenty patients were legally accessing medicinal cannabis in this state. While hundreds perhaps thousands more patients were breaking the law to access a medicine they find effective for their conditions.
I think you would go a long way to find a physician (or even a decent politician) would agree that having patients breaking the law is ideal. It isn’t.
So what has occurred over the last seven years?
Patients have become self sufficient – who could blame them considering the lack of responsibility from the government?
Many of them source their cannabis medicine from local suppliers, from compassionate carers, from overseas and yes, even from ‘legal’ mainland clinics when technically that was restricted here also. And then, some of us choose to home grow.
We’ve always suggested that a tiered system be adopted and now whether government likes it or not that is what is happening.
There should be pharmaceutical grade cannabis medicines, there should be herbalist/grow ops and there should be personal home grow rights.
For the last seven years we have been growing and extracting medicine for Jeremy. We applied three times to the Controlled Access Scheme. Not at any time has government stepped in to assist our severely disabled son. Correspondence and meetings have been patronising and those charged as responsible for the health of Tasmanians have been indifferent to his situation.
Jeremy isn’t alone, there are many patients that have begged for help and been let down by the Gutwein Liberal Government.
The recent changes by the government will potentially leave patients unable to afford, and at times without consistent supply of medicinal cannabis. If government had taken the time to see what is working and what isn’t working on the mainland over the last few years they would know this.
So what would I say to them?
You have basically slowly tortured our son and entire family over seven years. We have stepped up, risked our very freedom to provide him with the medicine that is safe and effective for him while you sat on the sidelines and sniped at us to do the right thing – what was the right thing?
It has been hard, on us all. It has sometimes been terrifying but also empowering. We did it, we love him and care enough to risk all we have.
So excuse us if we treat your announcement with the same disdain that you have treated us.
While we are able to, we will continue to care for Jeremy. We’ve kept him alive this long without your help. Thanks, but no thanks.
The Government announcement in the State of the State Address about changes to the Controlled Access Scheme is welcome news. Patients across Tasmania have been pleading for fairer access to medicinal cannabis for many years.
It should not have taken four years for these changes to be made but now Tasmanians can speak with their GP to gain access to medicinal cannabis. GPs are well placed to provide care around prescribing medicinal cannabis.
It is important that the Controlled Access Scheme remains in place, for those most vulnerable patients requiring medicinal cannabis therapy.
Concerns persist about affordability and availability of medicinal cannabis. We ask that government considers the recommendations of the recent Senate Inquiry current barriers to patient access to medicinal cannabis in Australia to allow self supply/cultivation of medicinal cannabis. Those patients that choose to self supply should be protected. Driving while prescribed medicinal cannabis will also need to be addressed.
honahlee is an educational space created to support a new perspective on cannabis in Australia.
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When it comes to medical cannabis, Tasmania is a place we should all be talking about. The Tassie government often talks about how excellent their medical cannabis framework is because it covers the cost of medical cannabis for patients. In theory, this is great. However, less than 20 patients have been approved for medical cannabis by the Tasmanian government since 2016.
We asked Rhys if he had any idea as to why this was happening and here’s what he said:
“I have no idea why this is happening. I think their process made sense initially. In the early days, in 2016 and 2017, when medicinal cannabis was brand new, every state and territory had their own restrictions on who could get access to what and which doctors could prescribe and the paperwork. And, that was completely unworkable.
In 2018, Greg Hunt the federal health minister, through the Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) process, managed to get all of the States and Territories to agree to collaborate in order to streamline the patient access processes to make sure that access barriers were reduced.
All of the States and Territories agreed, except Tasmania. So you have a situation where patients, and in some cases quite seriously ill patients, who’ve been seen not just by a GP but also by a condition specialist. For example, as an epileptologist.
And that specialist has submitted an application to the Tasmanian government saying, “As a specialist medical practitioner, that my patient would benefit from medical cannabis.” And, the Tasmanian government said no.”
This is a huge problem for Tasmanian patients and, in many ways, a human rights issue. The Tasmanian government can’t say that it’s to protect the community from harm because patients are going to clinics on the mainland and getting scripts.
This is an issue that needs more airtime. We need people to speak out. If you’re a Tassie local, please call or email your local member of parliament and let them know that you’re not going to stand for this kind of treatment.
Under questioning from the Greens in Budget Estimates, Health officials confirmed the government has knocked back more than half the applications made by medical specialists for the use of medicinal cannabis for their patients. Watch
Of 39 applications made by specialists on behalf of their patients, only 17 were accepted by the Health Department.
Rosalie Woodruff, Greens Health spokesperson vowed to continue to press the Gutwein Government to catch up to the rest of Australia, and to treat both patients and medical professionals with the respect and compassion they deserve.
70 days doesn’t seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things.
Unless you add on three years to that time, since we first asked for a prescription for cannabis.
Then add another three years..
Six years since we started using cannabis for Jeremy and fighting for his right to legally use a plant to offer him a decent quality of life.
Six years since it got to the point where he started jumping out of moving cars, since he hospitalised one of his support workers, since we had to lock him in our home because it was too dangerous for him to leave. Since his unrelenting explosive behaviours and increased side effects from the three seizure medications he was prescribed at the time sent him into a tail spin that we are still trying to treat to this day.
Over 22 years since he had suspected acute viral encephalitis and his life was turned upside down. Almost 27 years since he had his very first seizure.
I don’t know if tomorrow, August 27 2020, after all those milestone dates will bring positive news.
It’s been 70 days since the third treating specialist agreed to apply to the Controlled Access Scheme on his behalf.
What I do know is it will be the last time we ask for a prescription.
I hope it is positive news. I hope that if it isn’t that we can find a way to work with his medical team despite the fact 95% of his medicine is homegrown and untested.
Bill rammed thru parliament to facilitate export of medical cannabis while Aussie patients continue to suffer, unable to afford imported products …
Patients in Australia needing access to medical cannabis have been slapped in the face yet again by this corporate friendly LNP govt who cares nothing about the suffering of our people.
The Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020 rushed through parliament last night, will make it easier for licensed producers to export MORE of our home grown cannabis products, leaving Aussie patients STILL without a reliable, uninterrupted supply of Aussie products.
The Govt says the legislation has been rushed through with the view to “ reduce red tape (and) bust congestion in regulation” (of the govt’s own making); or closer to the truth, it may have had “something to do with negotiations on other issues in the Senate” as suggested by the ALP.
“What stinks is that Aussie patients are being prosecuted left right and centre for self supply because they cant get access to affordable legal products. Something has got to give,” says Ms Lynch president of MCUA of Australia Inc., who will face court in July for cannabis production charges because she has been unable to get a script and could not afford products even if she could get one – like 48% of other prescribed patients right now.
Deb Lynch believes it could be because there is a short supply in legal countries such as the US and Canada who’s back end businesses have been on shut down due the covid 19 crisis. “Cannabis has been deemed an essential service in these countries and there has obviously been lobbying by big cannabis business to make this happen because of the slow uptake by doctors and what looks like low demand.”
“Health Minister Hunt promised in 2018 that Aussie patients would come first. He Lied. And this is further proof that the Govt is still trying to keep cannabis away from Aussie patients.”
Aussie patients continue to struggle with supply problems and ridiculous prices for medicine that is being grown and manufactured here in this country, exported and imported back under international brand names. And now it has been made easier to export Aussie grown products.
Lyn Cleaver, prominent Tasmanian activist who has been growing essential supply of cannabis for her severely disabled son for several years while trying to access legal products, says “I’m still getting told to wait it out..keep doing what you are doing for now..easy for some politician to say when its not them breaking the law”
Meanwhile the recommendations made by the recent senate inquiry into the Barriers to patient access to medical in this country lay idle in their inboxes.
Gail Hester founded Medical Cannabis Users Association of Australia (MCUA) and became a registered, incorporated not for profit association in 2015.
Gail, lost her 21 year old daughter to bowel cancer. She set out on a mission to find the truth about cannabis.
“The more I researched the more evidence I found that cannabis may have indeed helped my daughter through this very dark time, and that it may well help others”
It was that revelation that saw Gail undertake the mission to bring truth to light and encourage others to fight for their own rights to use cannabis. Gail and other members of MCUA work tirelessly to bring about change.
There are many advocates in Australia that are fighting for change but to be honest you’d go a long way to find someone that puts in the hours that Gail pours into this fight.
As you are aware, the Controlled Access Scheme (CAS) allows Tasmanians with a serious illness, which has not responded to conventional therapies, access to unproven medical cannabis products when prescribed by a suitably qualified medical specialist. This approach remains available to Tasmanians, and anyone seeking access should contact their GP in accordance with the medical treatment movement restrictions.
The rules related to restrictions under COVID-19 specifies that individuals should stay at home other than for essential purposes. Essential purposes include getting food and groceries, undertaking personal exercise, or attending medical, or health care appointments or for medical treatment.
If members of the community are concerned regarding how to demonstrate their reason for not being at home, there will be opportunities to provide documentary evidence. For example, employers are providing staff with letters identifying the staff member as an employee. People visiting dispensaries may elect to show their scripts or medical certificates as their genuine reason for not being at home. I must note, these are suggestions and it is not mandatory to be able to prove your purpose on the spot.
Beyond these examples, I reiterate that Tasmania Police’s approach to enforcing the law when it comes to personal drug use has not changed.
We must address serious concerns about the vulnerable state medicinal cannabis users in Tasmania find themselves in during the current COVID-19 health crisis.
There are approximately a dozen patients who have been successful in securing a legal prescription for medicinal cannabis. That number is dwarfed by patients procuring cannabis via either black market or self supply.
On behalf of those patients, many of them using cannabis medicine as mono-therapy, we respectfully ask that you consider some protections be put in place as a temporary measure.
Such protections would benefit Tasmanians relying on cannabis to be well.
In the current climate an immediate moratorium on arrests and confiscation of discovered cannabis for identified medicinal users is paramount.
Currently Tasmania Police have discretion if charges should be laid concerning people using/possessing cannabis. They do not have any such discretion when it comes to cannabis (plant or medicine) that is discovered and they must by law seize.
For Tasmanians using cannabis accessing the alternative market requires them to be out in the community unnecessarily during this health crisis. For those of us who self supply (harvest of our own medicine is currently underway) we are at risk of our medicine being discovered and confiscated.
There is nothing in place to protect these unwell Tasmanians. I am sure during these uncertain times our Government would not wish for medicine to be taken from the seriously ill.
A register for patients legitimately using and/or self supplying cannabis for medicinal purposes – to protect them from possession charges and protection from confiscation as a temporary measure would ease the burden and fear that these Tasmanians face during this crisis.
Jeremy has trialled and failed over 17 medicines. He has also trialled and failed the VNS implant. He is not a suitable brain surgery candidate. At the time we commenced cannabis therapy his neurologist admitted “I have nothing left to offer Jeremy that will successfully and safely control his seizures”
This is our experience. As it stands TMAAC requires Jeremy to trial and fail ALLconventional TGA registered medicines before being considered for the Controlled Access Scheme.
After over two years of frustration waiting for a specialist and approval at state level we are still providing Jeremy the medicine he deserves. We again call on the Government to support self supply.