Tasmanian daily newspaper The Mercury has slammed the state government’s response to a plea from a dying cancer patient for better access to medicinal cannabis as “patronising, insulting and dangerously wrong”.

In a blistering editorial, the paper describes how the “articulate and rational case” made by 75-year-old Peter Fielding about the lack of availability of medicinal cannabis in Tasmania was met with a “cold bureaucratic response” by the government.

After sending its sympathies to Mr Fielding, a government spokesman described medical cannabis products as unproven.

He said: “The Controlled Access Scheme allows Tasmanians with a serious illness, which has not responded to conventional therapies, to access unproven medical cannabis products when prescribed by a suitably qualified relevant medical specialist.”

The Mercury summed up the message as “we are going to continue our prejudice against cannabis”.

Cancer sufferer Peter Fielding told The Mercury medical cannabis has seen his pain level go from 8 out of 10 to zero on some days. Photograph: Eddie Safarik

Mr Fielding told the paper that after he was able to access medicinal cannabis through a friend, his condition improved dramatically.

“Before medicinal cannabis my pain level was eight out of 10. After cannabis there were many days when I felt no pain at all,” he said.

The editorial goes on: “There are thousands of people living in Tasmania who are opting to break an absurd and cruel law which criminalises use of cannabis. They are doing this because the government access scheme is so strangled by red tape only 19 patients are accessing medicinal cannabis through it.

“The rest are growing their own plants, having others grow it for them, or buying it through networks. In return these individuals, like Peter Fielding, are able to get back some form of quality of life, and with the bonus of not becoming addicted to pharmaceutical pain killers.”

After citing evidence from clinical studies in the US and Israel proving the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in treating cancer-related pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea, it concludes:

“The Tasmanian government needs to recognise the reality that medicinal cannabis is here to stay and far from being “unproven”, which makes it sound like snake oil, there is a growing body of evidence which tells us why Peter Fielding and others are so passionate about ensuring government does not continue its absurdly cautious and prejudiced approach to cannabis.”