Medical cannabis law changes ‘too far away’

Cheri and Tara O'Connell. Picture: Peter Weaving/Bendigo Advertiser

A Mia Mia mother who uses cannabis to treat her daughter’s severe epilepsy says changes to allow parents to legally access locally manufactured medical marijuana from 2017 are too far away – and will not go far enough anyway.

The state government last week confirmed that it fully accepted 40 recommendations from a Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) report tabled in Parliament.

A cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility will start shortly, after the government decided to allow parents access to medicinal cannabis for children with severe epilepsy.

Eventually, growers will be licensed by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Legal protection still needed

But Cherie O’Connell, whose daughter Tara has been seizure-free since a few days after she was first administered cannabis in April 2013, said there needs to be legal protection for families already using the drug to relieve pain and treat life-threatening conditions.

Tara used to have up to several hundred seizures a day before she was first given medical marijuana.

‘‘I personally won’t be moving to a government-approved product,’’ Ms O’Connell said.

‘‘I want recognition of the products we’re already accessing. What we are using is one particular strain. We’ve been two and a half years seizure free. Why would you want to mess with that?’’

Ms O’Connell said, until now, families using medicinal cannabis didn’t know if and when they could be charged.

‘‘It’s still only being done unofficially,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m not asking for the products we use to necessarily be regulated.

“We just want to be able to have the same right to access.

‘‘We need full legalisation. It’s a great start but there’s more to be done.’’

The VLRC report also recommended that access be extended to people suffering severe muscle spasms or severe pain due to multiple sclerosis, severe pain and other symptoms caused by cancer and AIDS, and severe chronic pain, after getting approval of two specialists.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said evidence was growing about the positive effects of medicinal cannabis on patients’ quality of life.

‘‘Children with severe epilepsy will be the first to access medicinal cannabis because their condition can be life-threatening, and it may be their last treatment option.’’