The medicinal cannabis industry has secured a direct route into the heart of Federal politics in a move that could accelerate awareness of the sector among decision-makers in Canberra.
The formation of a Parliamentary Friends of Medicinal Cannabis Group will provide the industry with a non-partisan forum to consult with and discuss the needs and challenges of the sector.
Nearly 30 MPs and Senators have joined the group which is being spearheaded by MPs Dr Mike Freelander and Dr Andrew Laming.
The development of a formal body will enable companies operating in the sector, medical experts and patient advocates to step up their lobbying, raise awareness of the benefits of medicinal cannabis and more rapidly spread the word among parliamentarians.
The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA), which helped establish the Parliamentary Friends group, said it will play “an important role in improving education and public awareness of medicinal cannabis across the community”.
“We’ve been careful from day one to have a measured voice with politicians, and not to be seen as hectoring or badgering,” MCIA chairman Peter Crock told Cannabiz. “We want to show we can add value to them, and the Parliamentary Friends Group is a great result in terms of showing we’ve got the ear of key politicians and bringing them together and pointing them in the right direction with the right information.
“This group is an important forum for parliamentarians to learn about the benefits of medicinal cannabis and to further the growth of this important industry that has potential to positively contribute to health and economic outcomes for the community.
“Improving the awareness and understanding of medicinal cannabis will help promote change in attitudes to medicinal cannabis, particularly among healthcare practitioners.”
To achieve a sustainable industry that “contributes to patient wellbeing and the economy”, further progress is needed, Crock said.
That will involve streamlining regulation, investment in education and providing patient subsidies.
“MCIA looks forward to the opportunity to engage with this group for the benefit of all Australians,” he said.
Liberal National Party MP Dr Laming, who represents the Queensland division of Bowman, said: “This group ensures the Federal Parliament keeps a singular focus in facilitating the medicinal cannabis sector.
“I look forward to engaging with parliamentary colleagues and health professionals to increase awareness of medicinal cannabis to Australians.”
Labour MP Dr Mike Freelander, a paediatrician from Macarthur in NSW, added: “It is fantastic to see that we now have such broad support for medicinal cannabis in the Commonwealth Parliament.
“We need to have a bipartisan approach to funding for research into the applications for medicinal cannabis and its efficacy in many conditions such as epilepsy, cancer medicine and neurological disorders.
“This group will serve as a vessel to raise awareness about the applications and benefits of medicinal cannabis in our society,” said Dr Freelander.
It is anticipated that the first event to be held for the group will be later in the parliamentary sitting year.
Members of the Parliamentary Friends of Medicinal Cannabis
Dr Mike Freelander, Macarthur – Co-convenor
Dr Andrew Laming MP, Bowman – Co-convenor
Hon Sharon Bird MP, Cunningham
Josh Burns MP, Macnamara
Senator Carol Brown, Tasmania
Senator Catryna Bilyk, Tasmania
Brian Mitchell MP, Lyons
Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Hunter
Hon Warren Entsch MP, Leichardt
Hon Dr John McVeigh, Groom
Hon Dr Andrew Leigh, Fenner
Ross Vasta MP, Bonner
Ted O’Brien MP, Fairfax
Hon David Gillespie MP, Lyne
Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Lingiari
Senator Anne Urquhart, Tasmania
George Christensen MP, Dawson
Senator Malcolm Roberts, Queensland
Steve Georganas MP, Adelaide
Senator Helen Polley, Tasmania
Luke Gosling OAM MP, Solomon
Hon Chris Bowen MP, McMahon
Susan Templeman MP, Macquarie
Michelle Landry MP, Capricornia
Dr Helen Haines MP, Indi
Maria Vamvakinou MP, Calwell
Hon Damien Drum MP, Nicholls
Senator Louise Pratt, Western Australia
Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Tasmania