(Re)introducing medicinal cannabis

Laurence E Mather, Evert R Rauwendaal, Vivienne L Moxham-Hall and Alex D Wodak
Med J Aust 2013; 199 (11): 759-761. || doi: 10.5694/mja13.10728

The medicinal use of cannabis (Box) was prohibited in Australia some 50 years ago, at a time when scientific knowledge about it was meagre. It is now clear that cannabis has genuine medicinal utility, but this has been largely overlooked, with research and society’s attention, in most parts of the world, being directed towards the hazards of its recreational use rather than the benefits of its medicinal use.1,2 We maintain that consideration of policy for medicinal cannabis should be kept separate from consideration of recreational cannabis.

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  • Laurence E Mather1
  • Evert R Rauwendaal2
  • Vivienne L Moxham-Hall3
  • Alex D Wodak2

  • 1 Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Alcohol and Drug Services, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

Laurence Mather was a member of the Working Party on the Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes convened by the Office of the Premier of NSW that produced its report in 2000–2001. He wrote a submission for the NSW Parliament General Purpose Standing Committee No. 4 (GPSC) inquiry into the use of cannabis for medical purposes. He has been an Emeritus Professor of the University of Sydney since 2007; previously, he received supported research grants and paid speaker’s fees in association with his discipline of anaesthesia and pain medicine, all unrelated to this article. Evert Rauwendaal, Vivienne Moxham-Hall and Alex Wodak are members of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and co-wrote a submission for, and gave oral evidence to, the GPSC inquiry.

Note: The NSW Government tabled its response to the NSW Report recommendations in Parliament on 15 November 2013, accepting only recommendation 1 that “the [NSW] Minister for Health write to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing expressing in principal [sic] support for the timely, evidence based expansion of access to approved cannabis pharmacotherapies by additional patient groups, including those suffering from chronic pain for whom existing pain management is not effective; [and that] further clinical trials of pharmaceutical cannabis products to continue to build this evidence base; and [for] approved pharmaceutical cannabis products to be affordable to patients”. The remaining recommendations 2–5, which would essentially permit the lawful use of medicinal-grade botanical cannabis, were rejected. A copy of the Government response, along with a critique, has been prepared by the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation ( [accessed Nov 2013]).

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