WITH each step Australia takes towards medicinal cannabis access, two Banksia Grove parents watch and wonder – for their daughter’s sake – when WA’s time will come.
This week, Victoria became the first state to permit the product after the Federal Government legalised its cultivation for medical purposes earlier this year.
In New South Wales today , acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was at the launch of Australia’s first farm earmarked for medical cannabis production.
In Perth, Banksia Grove parents Lyndon and Nicole Poulter take hope from such announcements that their daughter Lily is closer to receiving the medication they believe will better ease her pain.
Lily lives with a disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes her joints to dislocate easily.
The 10-year-old also experiences Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a condition that can cause sudden intense pain in her limbs.
The Poulters came to public awareness late in 2014 advocating through the media for access to medicinal cannabis.
More than 18 months later, Lily’s most effective pain relief option remains opiates, which the Poulters are loathe to have her using.
The parents had the distressing experience of watching their primary-school aged daughter go through withdrawals after she became addicted to the medication.
They now try to limit its use, but when Lily is struck by extreme pain, Mr Poulter explained they have no other choice.
“We’re worried about what it’s done to her body so we’re trying to avoid it,” he said.
“But she still has her bad days… there’s only so much we can do as parents, you can’t let your child be in excruciating pain without doing something so we are still on (opioids) because we have to.
“We’re law-abiding citizens and we don’t want to go down that line (of seeking out cannabis illegally).
“We know there’s a few families that have, but we’re trying to avoid going down that line.”
At hearing Victoria had moved to legalise medicinal cannabis, Lily’s mother Nicole said “it was about time someone did”.
The drug is expected to be available in the state from next year, although initially restricted to epilepsy patients.
Mrs Poulter said she would not consider moving to Victoria to have access to it given Lily’s treatment with specialists was too well established here.
WA Labor leader Mark McGowan, who backed the Poulters cause in 2014, predicted medicinal cannabis would be available for use in WA by 2018 should he win office next year.
Mr McGowan first raised his support for its legalisation in July 2014.
“It’s heartbreaking to see young children, like Lily, suffering when help could be available,” he said.
“It would be a high priority of a McGowan Labor Government and I can’t see why it couldn’t be available for medicinal purposes, under strict supervision, in 2018, but I would want to see it available as quickly as possible.”
Asked about the potential economic benefits of the product, Mr McGowan said there was “real potential for medicinal cannabis to diversify WA’s economy and create new jobs”.
He labelled the news from Victoria as “really positive”, saying WA was lagging behind.
WA Health Minister John Day told the Times he was “open-minded to the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis”, but was strongly opposed to it in recreational form.
The Government has seemingly been in two minds about the product in recent years, with former Health Minister Kim Hames implying he was against medicinal cannabis in 2014, before changing his mind later that year and saying the government would support a trial of it through the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Mr Day said if “appropriately prescribed medicinal cannabis can relieve suffering” he wanted to “ensure West Australians have access to its benefits through safe and effective treatment regimes”.
“State law already permits research into cannabis preparations in WA,” he said.
“The State Government has offered to participate in the New South Wales (Government) study, and discussions are continuing about the feasibility of conducting a clinical trial with young epilepsy patients at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.”
The Times asked Mr Day via email how long he thought it would be before WA patients had access to medicinal cannabis, but he did not answer the question.
He was also asked if the Government had looked at the potential tax revenue the product could return, but that also went unanswered.
He did not comment on this week’s move from Victoria.