The pain relief gap left by codeine should be filled by cannabis, says libertarian Senator

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm has called on the Federal Government to smooth the way for Australians suffering chronic pain to access medicinal cannabis, slamming the current system as “onerous” and snared with red tape.

“With prescription-only rules for codeine coming into effect today, it has now become a matter of urgency that seriously ill patients obtain access to an effective and safe alternative,” Senator Leyonhjelm says.

“If the Federal Government cannot remove the bureaucratic barriers doctors are currently facing when trying to legally administer medicinal cannabis, the black market for products such as codeine-based pain killers will flourish.”

According to Senator Leyonhjelm, state health bureaucrats have been forcing doctors to jump through “near-impossible hoops” to obtain permission to administer cannabis to patients.

He cited the case of NSW, where GPs are required fill out an “onerous” pile of paperwork that can take several hours to complete for each patient.

He says some NSW GPs say they have been sent letters from NSW Health warning their indemnity insurance may not cover medical cannabis.

“Even for those GPs dedicated enough to spend this amount of time and energy accessing what has become a legal drug, the process is taking so long their patients are dying before they receive permission to medicate with cannabis,” he says.

He says that international experience including that of the US has shown that the prescription of addictive opioids such as codeine has dramatically declined, along with the associated deaths and overdoses, in states where medicinal cannabis is readily available. 

“It’s time for Federal and state bureaucrats to get over their blinkered ideological opposition to medical marijuana and put the needs of chronically and terminally ill Australians first,” Senator Leyonhjelm says.

“Sanctimonious ‘caution’ and bureaucratic restriction by stealth must no longer stand in the way of compassion and common human decency.”