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Toowoomba doctor backs cannabis trials

MEDICAL cannabis detractors need to remember the value of the poppy plant to modern medicine.

Toowoomba doctor Jeanne-Marie van der Westhuizen has spent more than 25 years of her professional life working in emergency medicine and drug addiction fields around the world.

She has added her voice in calling for a measured approach to introducing medical cannabis trials in Australia which would bring it in line with other developed nations in which components of the cannabis plant have been used to aid the sick.

She said the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant were similar to that of the poppy which produced both heroin and morphine, depending on the extraction process.

"It (cannabis) is a lot less dangerous than heroin (and) it's the way in which we use what is extracted that is important," she said.

"Cannabis certainly has the potential to provide some very medically useful products that have been seen over the years but the proof of what it is able to do has been difficult to find because it has been illegal.

CAMPAIGN: Yesterday’s front page of The Chronicle.
CAMPAIGN: Yesterday’s front page of The Chronicle.

"I think it is high time we conducted trials here.

"I think we should take the results from other first-world countries that have gone down this route and get with the program."

Dr van der Westhuizen said the two main ingredients of cannabis - THC and CBD - had different effects on users while both had potential medical applications.

She said studies had shown CBD to help quell anxiety, stimulate appetites in AIDS sufferers and reduce muscle spasms for multiple sclerosis patients.

"There are the two different chemicals that come from the plant but it's not quite as simple as that," she said.

"Some people require some of the THC for medical requirements as well so there is that crossover.

"That does lead to a bit of a challenge, but it is certainly far less of a challenge than heroin."

She said the medical cannabis debate centred on the view the drug was dangerous.

"Cannabis can be used in a dangerous way but if we're looking at the relative harm of all the drugs out there in the world, cannabis falls far down the scale and makes a mockery of the larger debate," she said.

"The most harmful drug out there without a doubt is alcohol."


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