Children 'at risk' after medical cannabis dealer jailed

Cheri and Tara O'Connell. Picture: PETER WEAVING
Cheri and Tara O'Connell. Picture: PETER WEAVING

MORE than 150 families say they will be left without medicine to save their children's lives after a medicinal cannabis dealer was jailed for 12 months. 

Tony Bower - who supplies cannabis oil to Mia Mia girl Tara O'Connell and dozens of other sick children - faced drugs misuse and trafficking charges in a New South Wales court today. 

Mr Bower runs Mullaways Medical Cannabis and when caught, had 67 cannabis plants growing on his property.

He was jailed for a year and was released on bail until an appeal hearing on October 7. 

Cheri O'Connell, whose daughter Tara has a severe form of epilepsy and relies on medical cannabis to survive, said she and so many others were distressed by the decision. 

"This substance is the difference between our kids living or dying," she said. 

Ms O'Connell fears her family will now be forced to break the law and make cannabis themselves.

"We only have enough supply for a few months and we have no knowledge of what to do after that. It's either move overseas or make it ourselves," she said. 

"They really are putting kids lives at risk with this decision."

Mr Bower provided the substance free of charge to the Mia Mia family, along with almost 150 others across the country. 

Ms O'Connell and her family travelled to New South Wales this week to support him in court. 

She said the decision was another case of someone not understanding what they were dealing with. 

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews last week met Tara and as a result has decided to push for the legalisation of cannabis oil for medicinal use.

He announced this week that if Labor comes into power after the November election, those with terminal illnesses or life-threatening conditions would have legal access to medical cannabis.

Victoria's Health Minister David Davis has said in the past that he needed more evidence before the Coalition government made a decision on medical marijuana. 

Ms O'Connell said the judge had set to make an example of Mr Bower and set a precedent with the decision. 

Mr Bowers provided the family with liquid cannabis that was diluted to 0.1ml doses, meaning it was not illegal.

"With epilepsy consistency is important - a one per cent change could be the difference in having a seizure and not having a seizure," she said.

"We don't want to go underground for this. We don't want to have to hide."

An Age report today revealed that desperate parents who believe they are using cannabis oil to treat chronically ill children could be administering nothing but methylated spirits, alcohol and water.

Forensic testing of medical marijuana has revealed dramatic variations in the contents of the product, which is often spruiked over the internet by unregulated producers who make bold claims about the benefits.

A Victoria Police analysis suggests up to 40 per cent of vials bought by Victorian families contained just methylated spirits, pure alcohol and water.

The results, seen by The Age, suggest in the remaining 60 per cent of vials tested, THC acid - the active component of cannabis - varied dramatically, ranging from low to high levels.

Ms O'Connell said this showed the importance of regulating the substance. 


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