EXCLUSIVE: Australia will get its first ever Medicinal Cannabis Awareness Week (MCAW) in February, with organisers calling on the industry to back the initiative and help raise public awareness of the medicine.
Meanwhile, moves are underway to resurrect the Parliamentary Friends of Medicinal Cannabis Group (PFMCG) in Canberra after the previous incarnation was dissolved prior to last year’s federal election.
And minister for health and aged care Mark Butler is also considering a request for A$800,000 to help fund the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association’s compassionate access scheme.
United in Compassion (UIC) and AMCA co-founder Lucy Haslam told Cannabiz MCAW will take place from February 20 to 24, timed to coincide with the seventh anniversary of medicinal cannabis legalisation and the eighth anniversary of her son Dan’s passing.
Dan died from bowel cancer in 2015 aged 25, and it was the difficulty he had in sourcing cannabis to help ease his suffering that prompted the launch of UIC and Lucy’s ongoing battle to improve patient access.
Aimed at reducing the stigma around the medicine – both in the community and among healthcare professionals – MCAW will include a number of major announcements in the fields of training, research, representation and best practice.
Haslam is calling on the rest of the industry to get behind the initiative by registering announcements or events with UIC/AMCA to include in a media pack going out to mainstream news organisations early next month.
She said: “Companies aren’t allowed to advertise their products, but we can still talk about the subject without making it about sales.
“We can talk about the growing numbers of patients. We can talk about the high quality of Australian products. We want a strong industry so patients get lower prices, and that’s in everyone’s best interests.”
“We want to get as many medicinal cannabis stories out there as possible, to get everyone talking about it in the hope of normalising the conversation and supporting patients and the industry.
“This will also help to get it back on a political footing and support consideration of the compassionate access scheme proposal which is already in the hands of the Labor Government.”
In a meeting with Butler before Christmas, AMCA called on the Government to help fund the scheme via a $800,000 cash injection.
Haslam said: “We told him the industry has come to us and said they would like to do this, but we need money to have someone set it up and run it.
“So we asked for seed funding for a couple of years to see if it would work. It’s not a big ask, really.”
Meanwhile, a letter has been sent to MPs by Labor senator Anne Urquhart and Liberal MP Warren Entsch – both members of the previous PFMCG – calling for expressions of interest in joining a new group during this parliament.
Haslam said she was confident there would be sufficient uptake to revive the group, which Urquhart and Entsch would co-chair. Friendship Groups disband at the end of each parliament.
She added its formation would provide another access point to Butler, who she described as “definitely more open” to medicinal cannabis reform than predecessor Greg Hunt.
Firms wanting to get involved in MCAW should send details of their announcement or presentation to firstname.lastname@example.org. TGA compliance is essential.