Push to trial medicinal cannabis

PRESSURE is mounting on the state government to push on with a medicinal cannabis trial, ahead of an upper house inquiry into the issue starting in Hobart today.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Lara Giddings told Parliament yesterday the government was ‘‘sitting on its hands’’ over medicinal cannabis amid mounting activity in other states.

Ms Giddings cited moves on the mainland to relax legislation and law enforcement against cannabinoid use.

‘‘All the Liberals have done is pay lip service to the thousands of Tasmanians who are calling for a trial to produce, process and administer medical cannabis,’’ Ms Giddings said.

‘‘The longer the Tasmanian Liberals stall on the use of medicinal cannabis, the more out of touch they are looking.’’

Premier Will Hodgman rebuked her claims and accused the opposition of hypocrisy.

‘‘If anyone sat on their hands when it came to progressing this issue it was the former government ... they had many years to a lot more than they did,’’ Mr Hodgman told Parliament.

Mr Hodgman said his government would appear before the inquiry in support of a trial, while awaiting discussion on the the issue at an upcoming Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday threw his support behind legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes, which could set the tone for debate at the national conference.

It was the first time Mr Abbott publicly backed medicinal cannabis.

Ms Giddings urged the state government to get moving quickly on a trial - a view shared by others involved with the inquiry.Inquiry chairwoman and independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest said there was no reason the government could not start a trial while MLCs considered broader issues.

‘‘They could be progressing research in the interim while the committee works on a regulatory framework for a Tasmanian medicinal cannabis industry,’’ Ms Forrest said.

‘‘There is clearly a growing national appetite to facilitate trials and establish an ongoing industry. We need to be ready to move on this or we run the serious risk of falling behind.’’

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis said she was looking forward to voicing support for a Tasmanian trial when she gives evidence tomorrow.

‘‘Based on research of international experiences, it is clear the clinical benefits for clients and patients are enormous and so too are the economic upsides,’’ Ms Ellis said.

‘‘It’s disappointing to think we may have to wait until the inquiry hands down its findings next year to see a Tasmanian trial take place.’’

Tasman Health Cannabinoids is among the strongest advocates for a local trial. Chief executive Troy Langman said a groundswell of support for medicinal cannabis reform was building across the country.

Mr Langman will appear before the inquiry on Monday.

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