Professor Graham King, director of Southern Cross University Plant Science
Professor Graham King, director of Southern Cross University Plant Science John Waddell

Southern Cross University pushes for marijuana research

DECADES of research into crop plant genetics has earned Southern Cross University Professor Graham King a seat on the state's advisory council, guiding research into medical marijuana.

Prof King will be the only plant scientist, alongside doctors, academics and patient welfare advocates, working with the NSW Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation.

The centre will sponsor research across the state, and Southern Cross University is already planning to use its existing expertise to play a key role.

"We will be applying for funding where we feel we can contribute," Dr King said.

"In the meantime, we have an ongoing academic program looking at the variations in chemical composition within different strains of industrial hemp and other types of cannabis."

Prof King will draw experience changing the genetics of canola plants to alter the level of polyunsaturated fats in their final product, canola oil.

His understanding of how horticultural crop genetics affect their suitability for different growing areas will also come into play.

Different marijuana strains' medical effectiveness will have to be balanced with their ease of mass production.

"That's one of the interesting challenges and opportunities," he said.

"Hemp can and has been grown traditionally in a lot of different latitudes and climates areas of the world.

"There is the scope in Australia to grow different types of crops from Tasmania all the way north."

Prof King will join the board alongside campaigner Lucy Haslam who has been at the centre of the legalisation debate since before the death of her son Dan, who used marijuana to counteract the nausea caused by chemotherapy.

The NSW Government has invested $12 million to establish the research centre and $9 million for three clinical trials.

One trial will aim to improve quality life for adults with terminal illnesses.

Another will test children with severe drug-resistant epilepsy, while reducing nausea and vomiting for chemotherapy patients will be the focus of the final trial.

The Department of Primary Industries is on the lookout for potential growing sites, although Prof King said it would take some time before they were chosen.

"The NSW Government has been very innovative in pushing this area," he said.

"It's great to have it in this state.

"Now we have this opportunity to make some progress on what has been a really fuzzy area."


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