Medicinal cannabis – exactly what trials are needed?


“It’s positive to see politicians acknowledging the need for work on medicinal cannabis, but I am deeply concerned that Governments are finding excuses not to take real and immediate action,” said Mr Rattenbury. 


“The ACT should act now on medicinal cannabis instead of calling for clinical trials or a national approach which will only defer or delay access for those who are suffering now.    


“Many Australians are suffering from illnesses for which cannabis can help relieve symptoms, but right now the law means that people who need cannabis are being forced to commit a crime.


“The evidence is already sufficiently strong to support the use of medicinal cannabis now, and the ACT Greens legislation proposes a sensible approach that allows those who have a genuine illness to access to a controlled amount of cannabis for legitimate medicinal use. 


“Several significant inquiries have already reviewed the evidence for medicinal cannabis – including inquiries by the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, the American Institute of Medicine, and two NSW committees – and all have supported its use for several conditions.


“A recent German medical review[1], cited in the Medical Journal of Australia, assessed the controlled trials that had already been conducted around the world and found the majority were favourable. The positive results related to conditions including:

  • chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (40 favourable trials, one unfavourable);
  •  HIV/AIDS-related cachexia (seven favourable trials, none unfavourable);
  • chronic neuropathic pain  such as cancer, rheumatism and fibromyalgia (11 favourable trials, 2 unfavourable).


“Proposing new trials will mean significant obstacles and delays – most likely years - for those who are suffering now. The question that people should be asking is why do we need to do all this again?


“Do we really think that Australians are somehow different and that these overseas findings from trials are not applicable here?


“We’ve seen stalling by politicians in the past. In response to significant public pressure, the NSW Government announced it would establish a four year trial of the medical use of cannabis. That was a decade ago, and still nothing has eventuated.


“Stalling tactics do not help those who are suffering and need access to medicinal cannabis now. We have the evidence, we know that medicinal cannabis can help many people, let’s just get on with it supporting those people and making their illnesses more bearable,” Mr Rattenbury concluded.


[1] Grotenhermen F, Müller-Vahl K. The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109: 495-501 cited in Laurence E Mather et al, Medical Journal of Australia 2013; 199 (11): 759-761 (