Medical Marijuana Debate in Australia Heats Up with Growing Support

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A participant practices rolling a joint at the Cannabis Carnivalus 4/20 event in Seattle
A participant practices rolling a joint at the Cannabis Carnivalus 4/20 event in Seattle, Washington April 20, 2014. Reuters/Jason Redmond

The issue of legalising medical marijuana in Australia is being revived as the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWMNA), one of the nation's biggest nursing unions, expressed its support on the use of cannabis. According to the association, medical cannabis can help patients who are suffering from chronic pain.

The organisation has 59,000 members and its 23-member executive committee has filed a resolution to support the use of 15 g of dry cannabis on patients who have AIDS and other terminal illnesses. The nursing union backed the recommendations of a bipartisan NSW parliamentary committee but it was shot down by the NSW government under the leadership of Barry O'Farrell.

The medical marijuana issue has been resurrected with NSW Premier Mike Baird reported to be sympathetic to people who want to use the drug for medical purposes. Reports said the premier is against the recreational use of marijuana.

NSWMNA general secretary Brett Holmes said the union's members know the importance of having "improved options" for effective pain management. Holmes said medical marijuana is already being used in other countries by people suffering from Parkinson's disease, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, nausea and other diseases causing chronic pain.

The nursing union has signed a petition created by retired nurse Lucy Haslam who has a son with terminal bowel cancer. Her son uses medical marijuana to help manage the effects of chemotherapy.

Another patient Tara O'Connell has benefitted from the use of marijuana. She has been able to get rid of her seizures by taking cannabis. Before the drug, she suffered 200 seizures a day. Doctors told her family she would not be able to celebrate her ninth birthday.

Her mother, Cheri O'Connell said since her daughter used a tincture made from cannabis plants, the seizures have stayed away. Her daughter will also be celebrating her ninth birthday in a few days.

O'Connell is only one of the many who are willing to join a class action against the Australian government to allow the use of medical marijuana.

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