Majority of Australians support medical marijuana

Almost two-thirds of Australians support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, according to a new poll which coincides with a renewed push to relax the laws.

A ReachTel survey of more than 3400 Australians shows that the majority back medicinal marijuana, with support highest among 51 to 65-year-olds.

It comes as NSW Premier Mike Baird indicated on Wednesday that he supported the use of medical marijuana, despite having concerns about its supply and regulation.

Earlier this month Cassie Batten, a pregnant mother from Mernda, was questioned by police after admitting to using cannabis oil to treat her disabled three-year-old, who has epilepsy and suffers from profound seizures.

But it is unlikely that there will be any legislative change in Victorian in the near future, with both the Napthine government and Opposition saying they have no plans to legalise the drug.

A spokesman for Victorian Health Minister David Davis said there needed to be a strong body of scientific research that proved marijuana was more effective than other drugs in order for it to gain approval for medical use.

“Current evidence available strongly suggests that the balance of harms and risks does not support the use of cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes ... The use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes is illegal in Victoria and other states because evidence shows it causes harm to both cannabis users and the broader community.”

An opposition spokesman said: "Victorian Labor supports the use of pharmaceutical products that are approved and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and we have no plans to amend Victoria’s drugs laws to decriminalise marijuana."

According to the survey, almost 80 per cent of Greens voters were in favour of medicinal cannabis compared to 69.9 per cent of Labor voters and 56.6 per cent of Coalition voters.

Victoria Police released a statement on Monday saying its investigation into Ms Batten and her partner Rhett Wallace was an “enormously unfortunate situation” and they understood the challenging circumstances the couple faced.

“Victoria Police fully recognises that there is a legitimate debate that needs to be had on the use of cannabis in medical circumstances. But this is a matter for parliaments to resolve for the good of the communities they represent.”

Federal Liberal MP Sharman Stone, Labor member Melissa Parke and Greens senator Richard Di Natale wrote to Dr Napthine this week to express concern about the couple's treatment.

The Australian Medical Association, Victoria, called for clinical trials on the medicinal use of cannabis in order to establish its potential and to determine guidelines around any future therapeutic uses.

President Tony Bartone said there was growing evidence cannabis was an effective treatment for a range of symptoms.

He said cannabis appeared to have medicinal uses for controlling muscle spasticity, some types of chronic pain, some kinds of nausea and as an appetite stimulant in patients with weight loss due to cancer or HIV.

"If deemed safe and effective, medicinal cannabis should be made available to patients for whom existing medications are not as effective,’’ he said.  

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/majority-of-australians-support-medical-marijuana-20140723-zw56k.html#ixzz38KRP9niS

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