Medical cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2016 and after a very slow start, the number of medical cannabis patients is finally growing.
It is not all good news though as patients and advocates believe that the existing policies and frameworks to access medical cannabis is not working for patients.
United in Compassion (UIC) is one of the most influential medical cannabis advocacy groups in Australia and an outspoken critique of the current government framework for accessing medical cannabis.
The main issue seems to be that the oversight of medical cannabis has been assigned to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) instead of creating an independent ‘Regulator of Medical Cannabis’ as originally proposed.
UIC is currently running a campaign, called #FixDansLaw to improve the access of Aussie patients to medical cannabis products. UIC also organises a prominent educational event, the Australian Medical Cannabis Symposium every year.
The purpose of the event is to educate the public and health professionals about medical cannabis to ultimately improve access to all patients in need in Australia.
This year the speakers included the best of the best of the scientific, medical and business minds in medical cannabis from Australia and from around the world.
Speakers included neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, Dr Ethan Russo from the United States. Dr Russo is one of the most respected medical minds on cannabis. Dr Russo presented on multiple topics to his captive audience, including the entourage effect.
Another international celebrity doctor presenting at the event was Dr Donald Abrams, California based oncologist, who presented on cannabis in cancer care and participated in multiple panel discussions.
Another well-known high profile Californian, Dr Jeffrey Hergenrather also made the long trip to much delight of the audience. Dr Hergenrather shared his extensive experience working with medical cannabis patients for decades.
Another Californian presenter was veteran cannabis physician, Dr David Bearman. Dr Bearman has been working in substance and drug abuse for 40 years and he is one of the most experienced cannabis physicians around the world.
Dr Bearman was the opening keynote on the first day talking about the history of cannabis. He was back on the second day presenting about how cannabis may be used for Autism Spectrum Disorder and participated in multiple panel discussions.
Besides the American doctors, Dr Graham Gulbransen from New Zealand also shared his extensive experience prescribing CDB in Auckland New Zealand for a wide variety of conditions.
Along the international speakers were Israeli Associate Professor, Dedi Meiri, from the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research. Dedi spoke about the orchestra of phytocannabinoids, emphasizing the importance of personalized medicine due to the unique effects of cannabinoids.
One of the most engaging presentations was done by “Amazon John” Easterling from the US. John shared the experience he accumulated working in the Amazonian jungle, learning plant medicine for indigenous tribes. His presentation titled “Why Cannabis … Why Now?” attracted a lot of attention from the audience.
Australia has a growing number of homegrown experts and many of them were at the symposium sharing their knowledge and experience.
Local researchers and doctors included Dr David Caldicott, who is also part of UIC’s advisory board. Dr Caldicott mc-ed the event and also presented on how the Australian medical cannabis framework is performing compared to other countries.
Other local talents included Associate Professor Mehrdad Nikfarjam, who presented on how cannabis medicine might be able to help with one of the most mortal cancers, Pancreatic Cancer.
The impressive list of local talents didn’t stop there. Dr Judith Lacey, the Head of Supportive Care and Integrative Oncology at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse did a fascinating presentation about how cannabis might be used in the treatment of high-grade Gliomas.
Professor Simon Eckermann presented his work on health economic analysis to prove the case for the need for medical cannabis policy reform in Australia. Another engaging presentation focusing on the economics of cannabis medicine.
One of two researchers from the Lambert Initiative, was Dr Melissa Benson, talking about the challenges that researchers face trying to conduct clinical research on cannabis in Australia.
Another representative from the Lambert Initiative was Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold, who spoke about unlocking the medical potential of cannabis for the treatment of epilepsy and other conditions.
Dr Teresa Towpik was making the opening keynote on the last day of the event.
The doctor turned politician, Dr Richard Di Natale was the only federal politician who made it to the event. Senator Di Natale, the leader of the Greens is the only high profile politician in the county who takes a clear position on the cannabis issue and has been a vocal supporter for many years.
Professor Laurie Mather also made it to the event to share his expertise and answer questions during panel discussions.
The nurses were represented by Ms Rita Martin, who spoke on behalf of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and emphasized the importance of responding to patients’ needs compassionately.
Other contributors included Cam Battley and Jonathon Zaid from Aurora Cannabis from Canada.
Cam and Jonathon shared how Aurora is working on bridging industry and advocacy and what Australia can learn from Canada in this regard.
Another Canadian speaker was Dr Mark Ware from Canopy Growth Corporation who spoke about cannabis as an opiate sparing medicine. How cannabis has gone from a gateway to an exit drug.
It is not hard to see that UIC has put the standards very high and recruited the best of the best knowledge and experience from around the word in the field of medical cannabis.
These kind of events are exactly what the developing local medical cannabis industry needs to ensure that local experts and patients are getting more and more educated. Only through such education, it is possible to achieve easy access to all Aussie patients in need.