LEGAL RELIEF | Sufferers say medical cannabis their only hope

Alan Adams, of Wodonga, says only the fact it was illegal had stopped him using cannabis to ease his pain. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

Alan Adams, of Wodonga, says only the fact it was illegal had stopped him using cannabis to ease his pain. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

WODONGA’S chronic pain sufferers are demanding access to medicinal cannabis, saying it could change the quality of their lives.

Several yesterday told a Victorian Law Reform Commission forum at The Cube how the drug was the only way they could relieve the pain of their debilitating ailments.

The speakers, from all walks of life, included a great-grandmother whose five-year-old great-granddaughter suffers “absolutely dreadful” epileptic fits, called for medicinal cannabis be legalised.

The commission will now consider their views as it prepares advice for the state government on legalising the drug “in exceptional circumstances”.

The term “exceptional” concerns chronic sufferers such as Alan Adams, who fears his pain is to “too broad, too generic” to be included, despite being clinically diagnosed.

The government has agreed to clinical trials of cannabis oil with NSW and Queensland, but aimed only at controlling epilepsy, end-of-life pain and chemotherapy-related nausea.

"(The pain) is always there ... It's a constant battle - a battle to shower, to get out of the car."

ALAN ADAMS

Mr Adams, 63 — who does not use cannabis — has lived in pain for two years after botched surgery that was supposed to repair an injury sustained playing a squash.

He said every painkiller and procedure he had tried had failed and his only option was neuro-surgery costing up to $40,000 — well beyond his budget.

“Sometimes the pain is like a burning sensation, other times it’s like a knife, but it’s always there,” he said.

“It’s a constant battle — a battle to shower, a battle to get out of the car.

“The hardest thing to get my head around is that this isn’t my fault. I went in for a routine surgery and ended up like this.”

Mr Adams, a lawyer, said he had considered trying cannabis for the benefits it may have, but had not done so because he wanted to do so 

"People know the benefits, they know the research (in the US and Spain) yet it’s still against the law and people are being persecuted and living in fear."

MARIKA TOIVO

Other sufferers told the forum the drug had greatly eased their pain.

One said the pain-killers she could take were limited because she was allergic to opiates. Another said marijuana eased the pain of his multiple conditions.

Commission chairman Philip Cummins conducted the forum.

One woman said a family member had used the drug to ease the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome when nothing else had worked.

Another said a palliative care nurse had suggested it to her husband, dying of cancer.

Medical Cannabis Users of Australia campaigner Marika Toivo, who lives in the North East, said the group did not want big companies too involved and was concerned the drug would be produced in “synthetic forms,”

“There are already people in Australia making the oil completely naturally and making it well,” she said.

Ms Toivo — who is leading a social media campaign to help a Queensland father charged for giving cannabis oil to his daughter, 2 — said it was time the law changed.

“People know the benefits, they know the research (in the US and Spain) yet it’s still against the law and people are being persecuted and living in fear,” she said.

Mr Cummins said many of the issues raised were similar to those at other forums and the overall mood was that the issue must be addressed sooner rather than later.

The Australian Medical Association has already told the commission there should be more research on the issue.