A state parliamentary inquiry has recommended the legalisation of medicinal marijuana for people with AIDS and terminal illness.

The Select Committee Inquiry into the Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes recommended last week that certain patients with terminal illness, AIDS or suffering chronic pain that is unresponsive to existing medication, be given a “complete defence from arrest and prosecution” for possessing cannabis as long as they register with the Ministry of Health and are certified as having a condition justifying the use of medicinal cannabis. This defence would also be extended to their carers.

Speaking at state Parliament House, committee chair and Nationals Upper House MP Sarah Mitchell said the “proven benefits of cannabinoids” for certain patients made legalisation for a small number of people desirable.

“The committee believes, like almost all inquiry participants, that people who are at the end of their life and take measures to either relieve their severe pain or stimulate their appetite should not be criminalised. These people should not be subject to the humiliation and stress of arrest and appearing in court,” Mitchell said.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill congratulated the committee on “taking a practical and compassionate approach” to the issue, having urged the inquiry to legalise medical marijuana while giving testimony in March.

“Members of our communities experience a range of health issues such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis or other conditions which can induce various levels of pain or discomfort. Research shows that cannabis can be effective in reducing pain,” Parkhill said.

The committee recommended the legalisation of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals such as nasal sprays but also heard concerns such treatments may encounter difficulties in the approvals process and could be prohibitively expensive to patients or taxpayers.

As a result, the committee acknowledged that “a very small and specific group of patients” would find smoking marijuana to be the most effective method of medication while hastening to add that this did not amount to an endorsement of people using recreational marijuana.

The inquiry was established in November to examine the safety of medicinal cannabis and explore potential ways the practice could be introduced. The recommendations will likely go before Parliament on November 15, six months from the committee’s announcement.

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