Right: proponents of the medical use of marijuana often point to other addictive substances which are completely legal, as this cartoon illustrates.
Though the New South Wales government is unlikely to endorse the recommendations of the parliamentary committee which investigated and finally argued for the medical use of marijuana, the issue is unlikely to simply disappear. There is pressure from both patients and some within the medical committee for marijuana to be available as a treatment drug.
The long term solution appears to be to process marijuana as other treatment drugs are processed. This would remove concerns about uniformity and purity and ensure robust regulation. It would also make a clear division between the medical use of marijuana, via tablet or inhalant, and the recreational use of marijuana, usually via smoking or ingesting the raw leaf.
The New South Wales parliamentary committee stated, 'Turning specifically to pharmaceutical cannabis products, we see this as a promising and workable area of reform, not least because such products are by definition subject to a robust regulatory system. Their active ingredients and doses are standardised and their unwanted effects are able to be controlled. In addition, pharmaceutical cannabis products are more acceptable to many individual patients, to the broader community and of course from a law enforcement perspective. Significantly, the product nabiximols (under the trade name Sativex) has demonstrated effectiveness is now available for prescription in Australia for the treatment of a highly specific condition, muscle spasticity arising from multiple sclerosis. While the Committee explicitly does not endorse any particular pharmaceutical product, we recognise that this is presently the only pharmaceutical cannabis product on the horizon for which there is an evidence base that can be recognised by the TGA.'
This is an area that will need careful development as the pharmaceutical cannabis currently available is not as effective as the raw product in treating some disease symptoms. It was also require clear legal authorisation before pharmaceutical companies will begin establishing the authorised supply chains necessary and then undertaking the necessary research.
Under the recommendation of the New South Wales Committee, those who supplied marijuana, even for medical purposes, would still be liable to prosecution. If the drug is to be supplied, produced by pharmaceutical companies, then a legal supply network would have to be established.