NSW govt to conduct $9m cannabis trials

28 December, 2014

The NSW government should find out in a few weeks, through negotiation with the federal government, if it will be able to import cannabis for medical trials.

Children with severe epilepsy, patients with terminal disease, and patients with chemotherapy-induced nausea will be the subjects of the trials, Premier Mike Baird and Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced on 21 December.

The trials will be conducted by doctors at Randwick and Westmead children's hospitals, and will cost $9 million. The government will also set up an expert panel to be overseen by the state's Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant.

"For a long time this issue has been discussed, but what we have today is NSW marching forward," Baird said.

"If we need to deal with the supply ourselves, we are ready to go in relation to that, but we need to decide whether it can be imported. I expect that, in coming weeks, to be resolved."

"Ultimately what this is about, it's about compassion.

Government broadening scope

The policy was praised by the NSW branch of the AMA, especially the government's move to conduct trials for paediatric epilepsy.

"This will allow sick people access to medicine that is being tested and examined for efficacy – potentially improving their lives in the short-term and providing evidence to help the wider population in the longer term," AMA NSW president Saxon Smith said.

"I'm glad the government is broadening its approach to the trials, allowing for more than just treatment of terminal illness," Dr Smith said.

"Research on short and long-term side-effects is especially important in any medicine given to children."

Science 'already proven'

NSW opposition spokesman Adam Searle said the science for cannabis use for pain relief had already been proven, and pushed for more immediate options.

"We have passed the time for trials," he said.

"We know that people are already running the risk of arrest by using cannabis for pain relief.

"People suffering from terminal illnesses need more pain relief options now, not in a few years."