Free pot. Happy words to many, but not to NSW parliamentarians heading to work this April Fool’s Day.

Activist Justin Brash handed bags of free medical cannabis to passing pollies, although the pamphlet attached had a political punchline. The bags contained the only legal options available for medical cannabis patients currently in NSW -“ which was nothing.

Doctors will tell you that most HIV patients are a real pain in the arse because they know a lot about their illness, Brash said. That’s the same way I approach cannabis, because it’s really just a treatment for my HIV.

Cannabis has a major benefit for those in an advanced stage of illness: it can suppress acute nausea and also heighten the appetite. Medical evidence from Canada and the UK was enough to convince the premier Bob Carr to initiate a four-year trial of medical cannabis in May of last year and Brash soon found himself in the spotlight.

I first wrote to the premier back in 1995 -¦ and I let ACON and PLWHA know that I was prepared to speak on this issue. Over the years no one really took any notice of me. Then all of a sudden Bob Carr made his announcement -¦ and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind ever since, Brash said.

The trial has been welcomed, but for Brash it’s not over yet. John Howard said in May 2003 he supported the trial only if the treatment was made available in the form of a tablet or spray: a possible outcome Brash thinks is not good enough.

The best way for a trial to go ahead is -¦ allowing patients to use cannabis in a way that suits them best. For most people that means some form of rapid intake like smoking or inhalation by vaporiser so that the dose can be titrated well, Brash said. Cannabis taken in pill form is metabolised by the liver, according to Brash, creating a less effective medicinal effect.

And so Brash maintains a presence outside parliament, a far cry from his former life, as the fastest barman on Oxford Street.

I managed to get a meeting with the Opposition spokeswoman on Health and I got 30 minutes in her office, which I thought was pretty impressive, Brash said.

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