In the wake of the national ban on over-the-counter codeine sales, the Turnbull government is being called on to consider cutting the red tape surrounding the use of medicinal cannabis to treat chronic pain.
Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm said offering greater access to “an effective and safe alternative” was a “matter of urgency” to thousands of Australians.
“If the Federal Government cannot remove the bureaucratic barriers doctors are currently facing when trying to legally administer medicinal cannabis, the black market for products such as codeine-based pain killers will flourish,” he said.
Senator Leyonhjelm said there was ample evidence to show that state health bureaucrats were forcing doctors to jump through near-impossible hoops to obtain permission to administer cannabis to patients.
In NSW, for example, GPs must fill out an onerous pile of paperwork that can take several hours to complete for each and every patient.
Some NSW GPs say they have been sent letters from NSW Health warning their indemnity insurance may not cover medical cannabis.
“Even for those GPs dedicated enough to spend this amount of time and energy accessing what has become a legal drug, the process is taking so long their patients are dying before they receive permission to medicate with cannabis,” he said.
Overseas experience, such as that found in the US, has shown that the prescription of addictive opioids such as codeine has dramatically declined, along with the associated deaths and overdoses, in states where medicinal cannabis is readily available.
“It’s time for Federal and state bureaucrats to get over their blinkered ideological opposition to medical marijuana and put the needs of chronically and terminally ill Australians first,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.
“Sanctimonious ‘caution’ and bureaucratic restriction by stealth must no longer stand in the way of compassion and common human decency.”