>Greens light up medical cannabis debate BY NOEL TOWELL, CHIEF ASSEMBLY REPORTER

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11 Mar, 2011 06:49 AM
The ACT Greens are moving to get the use of medicinal cannabis in Canberra’s health system back on to the political agenda.The debate around medicines made from the illegal drug has lain dormant in the territory since 2005. But in a series of questions tabled in the Legislative Assembly yesterday, the Greens made it clear that they want to fire up the discussion again.
The party has issued a series of inquiries to the Health Minister, wanting to know what progress has been made on a series of options developed in 2005 for the drug to be used in medicines in hospitals and clinics in Canberra.
Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan has also asked if health authorities are aware of a new cream made out of cannabis that is used to treat skin cancers and if the non-psycho-active preparation had been considered for treating ACT patients.
The options were contained in a report commissioned in 2004 after the defeat of a push from another Greens MLA, Kerrie Tucker, to decriminalise possession of the drug for the seriously ill.
The document, completed the following year, found evidence for the health benefits of cannabis, mainly in the areas of control of anorexia and nausea associated with cancer therapy, relief of chronic pain and as an aid to the control of muscle spasms in neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
It also outlined five options for medicinal cannabis use in the territory, including a plan for the government to establish its own small-time weed growing operation, an option scotched by then-health minister Simon Corbell.
The preferred option was to hold clinical trials of a substance called Sativex, a cannabis-based drug available in capsule form that was being trailed in various countries in 2005 and 2006.
”Has ACT Health conducted any further analysis of those options since 2005; if so, what is that work and what are its conclusions?” Ms Bresnan asked in the series of questions she submitted yesterday.
”Is ACT Health aware of any other new options that have arisen since 2005 that warrant inclusion on to the list of options for consideration?”
Ms Bresnan mentioned the new cannabis-based topical treatments for skin cancers, asking if health authorities were aware of them.

For more on this story, including details of requirements of the Health Minister to respond to Ms Bresnan’s question, see the print edition of today’s Canberra Times.

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