Queensland is set to join a New South Wales-led push for medicinal cannabis trials, but some parents of children suffering from epilepsy say they just want to skip that process and continue to administer the controversial drug.
Both major parties in Queensland politics have claimed credit for the upcoming trial, which would be a first step towards legalising the practice.
State Health Minister Cameron Dick told Parliament on Thursday that, as of Monday, medicinal cannabis had been rescheduled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration from a schedule 9 poison to a schedule 4 medicine for therapeutic use only.
“That means that a medicinal product containing cannabis can now be considered by the TGA for listing on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods,” he said.
“It is a small but important step to enabling medicinal cannabis to be used in trials in Australia.
“It will make it easier for medical professionals to source medicinal cannabis through the special access scheme in order for trials to begin.
“We hope this will encourage suppliers of medicinal cannabis to legally supply pharmaceutical standard products for trials, including the trials undertaken in conjunction with New South Wales.”
Queensland joined with NSW to advance the trials for children with epilepsy, the terminally ill and people on chemotherapy.
“We are a listening government and we agreed it would be a very useful and worthwhile thing to join in with NSW in those clinical trials,” he said.
“There is a significant difference between regulated pharmaceutical products and using the crude product from the cannabis plant.”
The state opposition in turn claimed credit for Queensland’s participation in the trials.
“On October 10 last year, I signed off with other health ministers on a bi-partisan agreement that we would co-operate and discuss as a state holding trials and accessing the safety of medicinal cannabis,” Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg, the former health minister, said.
“This is the LNP plan being accepted by the Labor government, it’s by and large a bi-partisan approval.”
Mr Dick refuted that claim, but, beyond the politics, families wanted certainty that what they were doing for their children would be made legal and they would not be prosecuted for what they saw as a loving act.
Fairfax Media discretely put the call out to parents who had chosen to treat their children with cannabis oil.
About 20 people responded, some of whom agreed to share their stories.
Like most people who came forward, Mark did not want to use his real name.
And it was little wonder.
After all, Mark was breaking the law.
“A lot of people don’t realise the number of people affected and the number of people involved because we’re all worried about prosecution,” he said.
Mark’s seven-year-old daughter developed epilepsy when she was about 15 months old.
“She was always a little bit behind the eight-ball but she was able to do a lot of things,” he said.
“She used to be able to roll over, she used to reach up and pull herself up in a highchair and eat.
“She was starting to talk and, since her epilepsy started, she’s regressed to a stage where she can’t do anything.
“She can’t eat, she has to be fed by tube.”
Mark’s daughter used to have up to 200 seizures a day, he said, and the prescribed medications she was on had either stopped working or had terrible side effects.
“We’ve been told she will slowly get worse and, one day, the inevitable will happen and she’ll basically die from what’s wrong with her,” he said.
So, at their wits end, they started using cannabis oil about three weeks ago.
“As a father, and as parents, we can’t stand by and watch our daughter slowly die and morally and ethically, if there’s something that can help I think it’s wrong not to use it,” Mark said.
“She deserves a chance.”
And the results have been stunning.
“She’s not having any more seizures, she’s improved out of sight,” Mark said.
“She actually wants to eat.
“It’s early days yet, but so far all the results are positive – there are no negatives.
“…We realise that it’s illegal, but if I had to go to jail, I’d go to jail for my daughter if it meant she could stay on it.