Where do we stand on medical cannabis?

Sometimes the word 'prevention' in our name can be confusing -- in this blog, we set the record straight on our position on all things medical cannabis.  

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It seems like every time we turn around at the moment there’s a new claim that cannabis cures or treats this or that. And while, if proven to be true, these claims would be life-saving or at the very least, life altering, unfortunately the sheer volume of claims and lack of real evidence to support them just makes the constant barrage tiring and overwhelming.

NCPIC is not opposed to medical cannabis…

Now, before you jump on us, let’s set the record straight. NCPIC is not opposed to medical cannabinoids (there's no gold-standard research on whole-plant, so we can't comment on its potential).

We do not want to prevent (and have no role in preventing) anyone from getting medication they need and that will help them.

As an organisation, we acknowledge some components of cannabis may be useful in medical applications. And as individuals – Australians no less, who come from a population where around 1 in 3 people will suffer from cancer – we, like many people, hope the growing body of evidence that supports the use of cannabis to relieve chemo side-effects  demonstrates its efficacy in scientific studies.

But the fact of the matter is, at this point in time, there just isn’t enough evidence – and we mean the real stuff… high quality studies – to support the many, and seemingly endless ‘cannabis cures…’ claims that are out there.

The problem for us is, if you point out the lack of evidence, you are deemed ‘big pharma’, ‘compromised’, ‘killers’ and various other unfriendly brands, as opposed to being given credit for simply wanting to know more.

Yes, we have ‘prevention’ in our name

Our name is the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. This is a legacy of a less confusing time when medical cannabis wasn’t under debate.

Yes, we work hard each and every day to prevent people – mainly young people whose brains are still developing – from taking up cannabis, as research has shown it can have particularly negative effects on young people.

But we DON'T aim to prevent medical cannabinoids, we just encourage further research.

NCPIC doesn’t arrest people or even report them…

We don’t have any influence over the law. None at all. It may come as a surprise to some – especially those people who like to personally attack members of our organisation – but we aren’t a policy organisation.

We provide information and education, we analyse research, we try to prevent uptake in teens whose brains are still developing, we offer free training to the invaluable Alcohol and Other Drugs, mental health and other workers who help Australians, and we provide treatment and support options to people who seek them out.

There are some big moves being made in Australia to legalise cannabis – at least for medicinal use. And there is a population of people who also want it legalised for general use.

Whether or not this happens is not our call.

Regardless, cannabis is still a drug that can affect people physically, mentally and emotionally, can impact their finances and relationships, can change the way they think, feel and move through life. For this reason, even if cannabis were to be legalised one day, the types of support and educational services offered by an organisation like ours (and those similar) are important. And for the moment, while cannabis is still illegal, we continue to do our best to deliver those services.

NCPIC doesn’t think medicinal cannabis users are criminals…

As said, we don’t actually have any role in commenting on legality, penalties or how those using medicinal cannabis are treated. We do try to promote the law of the day so people can make decisions that are as well-informed as possible.

What we do think, is that people considering using medicinal cannabis should be careful. Firstly, it’s important you understand that plant cannabis should be thought of more as an ‘herbal remedy’ (if you’re using it as medicine) than a legitimate ‘medicine’. When you get it – whether it’s leaves and bud for smoking (which is not a healthy way to take any medication), or oil – the dosage can’t be controlled, contaminants are unknown and you can’t be sure how much THC and CBD is in what you’re taking.

Research has indicated different components may be useful for different illnesses (‘may’ being the operative word) – but can you be sure how much of each is in your dose? Can you really trust the person giving it to you? Do you 100% trust that they have the know-how when it comes to upping the levels of one component and decreasing the other?

We’re not ‘big pharma’, but we can’t help admit that the idea of VERY accurately adjusting the levels of components in the drug, and removing concerns of pesticides or inconsistencies, does appeal even to our personal need for reliability and safety. We’re not sure why this is so often deemed a negative idea!

We do think the use of medical cannabis as a front for other agendas is frustrating…

One thing we do find frustrating is that the message and voices of those with real illnesses are SOMETIMES being used as a vehicle for those pro general legalisation to build their agenda upon.

We know there are real people hurting and suffering out there – and they deserve an opportunity for their message to be heard for what it is, and to influence change the way it should. What’s difficult to see, is those who don’t really care about medical cannabis and what it does, but use the images of ill children and wasting patients to drive home a message that is underpinned by a completely different agenda. This doesn’t ALWAYS happen, but it does happen, and it could harm an important cause.

NCPIC wants cures too…

And don’t get us wrong, we see the anecdotes and stories. We, as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, feel intense empathy for people who are suffering from illnesses that are yet to be treated effectively. We even understand they may make personal decisions to seek out options like cannabis.

Where we get concerned, is when other people take their story as gospel. Some of these people are desperate, and if there were other factors in the original story that influenced the result, there may be a lot of disappointed and heart-broken patients who miss out on their ‘miracle cure’. There may also be those who give up conventional treatments in lieu of cannabis, for an illness it hasn’t been proven to treat or cure, and in doing so damage their chances of recovery.

And this is why we think research is so important.

Stories kick things off – it’s undisputable. Anecdotes have their part to play in this process, and that part is inspiring scientists and politicians and researchers to investigate tirelessly to determine if cannabis can indeed be used to cure and treat each illness it is claimed to treat or cure.

And while we agree, the studies haven’t happened fast enough, it is undeniable that the stories and personal accounts have spurred them on and increased the pace.

All we ask is that people be careful. Don’t believe everything you read or hear (even what you read and hear about us). Read widely. Research extensively. Question continuously.

A final message…

Our hearts go out to people suffering from the many illnesses it is purported cannabis treats or cures. We genuinely and personally hope you find the relief you need.

 

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