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Medical cannabis: time for clear thinking

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Australia is behind the times on the medical use of cannabis

The debate about the medical use of cannabis in Australia has become confused with the proposal for a formal clinical trial instead of proceeding to legislation in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. Debates about prohibition of cannabis have a long history,1 as has the proposal for medical cannabis in Australia.2 Politicians are nervous about being “soft on drugs”, especially before an election. The clinical trial proposed, if successful, presumes that cannabis would then be approved and regulated as a pharmaceutical substance.

We need to be across the facts and options. Cannabis can never be a pharmaceutical agent in the usual sense for medical prescription, as it contains a variety of components of variable potency and actions, depending on its origin, preparation and route of administration. Consequently, cannabis has variable effects in individuals. It will not be possible to determine universally safe dosage of cannabis for individuals based on a clinical trial.

Extreme views in the debate about any form of cannabis decriminalisation are advanced with almost religious fervour. On the one hand, some assert that cannabis is a dangerous, highly addictive drug which causes schizophrenia, and that any move to relax prohibition would be a disaster.…

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