Medicinal cannabis: The family members that changed Australia’s debate

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Getting a former police officer, Lou Haslam knew his family’s story about breaking Australian law to get medicinal cannabis for his son was highly effective. It helped lead to a transform in the law but, as Gary Nunn reports from Sydney, the family members remains unhappy with the outcome.

Operating undercover for the police drugs squad, Mr Haslam, now 66, arrested “a tonnage” of men and women for cannabis-connected crimes in New South Wales (NSW) among 1972 and 2006.

“We have been primarily right after growers and suppliers,” he says.

Small did he know he’d later possess cannabis himself – and even acquire a farm to develop it. He started supplying cannabis to his personal son, Dan Haslam, right after he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010.

‘You’d do anything’

The day of his son’s cancer diagnosis, Mr Haslam remembers feeling confusion, anger, worry then grief: “I just believed, this is a 20-year-old kid. What the bloody hell’s taking place?”

Remembering how chemotherapy killed his son’s appetite requires Mr Haslam back to a dark time. “He was as sick as a dog,” he says. “For seven days afterwards, he couldn’t consume. He’d vomit. Ulcers filled his mouth. He lost so a lot weight and had no power. Just as he’d really feel far better, it was time for his subsequent round.”

Points got so negative that Dan would get anticipatory nausea – he’d vomit at the believed of chemotherapy. “Something had to give,” Mr Haslam says. “As a parent, you’d do something – and I imply something – to quit your kid suffering.”

A family members buddy who’d had colon cancer supplied Dan cannabis to handle his nausea, discomfort and poor appetite. Dan, a “fitness freak”, declined. He feared his dad’s disapproval.

But Mr Haslam’s reaction shocked absolutely everyone. “I mentioned, Christ almighty – go for it. Get some smoko. Something to assistance my son.”

With ongoing use of the drug, sourced from the black industry, Mr Haslam says his son’s ulcers disappeared, his appetite returned and his nausea depleted. “He’d attempted just about every bloody pharmaceutical drug. They did absolutely nothing. This was actually operating.”

Dan went on to have “the ideal two years of his life”. With renewed power, he travelled the planet and married his university sweetheart, Alyce.

‘Bloody tough’ choice

Seeing its influence, the Haslams began hearing how medicinal cannabis helped other people with chronic illnesses, epilepsy and HIV. They decided to go public with their story to shift Australian lawmakers to legalise it for medicinal use.

“Up till that point, we’d never ever employed the word ‘terminal’ – Dan hated it,” Mr Haslam says. “If our story was going to do any fantastic, Dan had to not only accept his terminal diagnosis, but say that word. And I had to inform the planet my son was about to die. It was bloody hard.”

The Haslams persuaded then NSW Premier Mike Baird to launch Australia’s 1st medicinal cannabis trial for terminally ill sufferers. At the time, Mr Baird wrote a piece for Sydney’s Everyday Telegraph, headlined: “How a young man changed my thoughts on cannabis.”

Mr Baird tells the BBC: “The moment I met Dan I was convinced healthcare cannabis could make a distinction. I could hear it in Dan’s voice I could see it in his eyes.”

The family members set up an on the net petition which amassed 320,000 signatures. They employed these supporters to effectively lobby politicians. A image of Dan sick on chemotherapy was circulated about Australia.

But as the campaign power constructed, Dan’s started to wane. He died in 2015, aged 25.

On 24 February 2016, coinciding with the one particular-year anniversary of his death, medicinal cannabis was legalised by the Australian parliament. Some MPs named it “Dan’s Law”.

His parents had campaigned tirelessly in their 1st year without the need of their son.

In an Australian 1st, Lou and Lucy Haslam bought a farm earmarked to develop medicinal cannabis, which was opened by then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in Tamworth – Dan’s house town. It was named DanEden.

A New Battle

But now, the Haslams are campaigning once again.

They argue the quantity of Australian sufferers accessing medicinal cannabis is also low, and that the law is not operating. They’ve reopened their petition making use of the hashtag #FixDansLaw.

The family members says medicinal cannabis remains in regulatory limbo due to excessive regulation and bureaucracy, which means some sufferers wait up to 19 months for a script. As of April 2019, there have been five,200 medicinal cannabis approvals.

It ought to be accessed by way of a specific scheme which, critics say, tends to make it onerous for medical doctors to prescribe. Australia has only 57 authorised prescribers of medicinal cannabis, according to the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), the national regulator.

Mrs Haslam adds: “Once authorized, quite a few sufferers realise they cannot afford it.” She says she knows of parents nonetheless breaking the law to get medicinal cannabis on the black industry.

A TGA spokesperson tells the BBC that there’s “significant need” for bigger medicinal cannabis investigation research.

“There have only been a restricted quantity of nicely-created clinical studies on medicinal cannabis and so it is really hard for some medical doctors to come across good quality proof to help choices to prescribe medicinal cannabis,” it says on its web site. Such trials to verify security can final years, a UK committee not too long ago heard.

The Australian Healthcare Association (AMA) acknowledges “the possible therapeutic uses” of cannabis. It says it supports the present regulator and the government’s need to accelerate the method for sufferers to get the medication.

The Haslams fight on. Lou Haslam marvels at his wife Lucy, who founded a charity which campaigns for compassionate access to the medication.

“She functions 14-hour days,” he says. “The death of a son alterations you. She just will not give up. Not now.”

Supply: BBC

Photos: Lucy Haslam

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