ANU provides Australia-first doctors’ workshop on medicinal cannabis

22 June 2017

A drugs expert from The Australian National University (ANU) is running an Australia-first workshop on medicinal cannabis for doctors in Melbourne today.

Some patients in Australia can legally take the drug, but it is not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. 

Workshop coordinator Dr David Caldicott from ANU said there was no clarity for doctors and patients in Australia around the use of medicinal cannabis.

"There's real fear among doctors that medicinal cannabis is exactly the same thing as recreational marijuana," said Dr Caldicott from the ANU Medical School.

"It's like saying heroin is the same as morphine. The aim of this workshop is to reduce the political argy bargy surrounding medicinal cannabis.

"This is a medical issue, not a political one. Our workshop is designed to bring Australian healthcare practitioners up to speed on the pros and cons of using cannabis as treatment, for appropriate conditions."

Dr Caldicott said evidence suggested cannabis in medicinal form was considerably safer than most of the drugs prescribed by doctors for pain relief.

He said no medical school in Australia provided training on how to use medicinal cannabis.

"We started working on our course two years ago, in conjunction with Lucy Haslam's United in Compassion organisation after being touched by the Dan Haslam story," Dr Caldicott said.

Mr Haslam was a medicinal cannabis campaigner who died from bowel cancer in 2015 at the age of 25.

"The workshop is a gift for all of those people, who like Lucy, want to help their loved ones with symptoms that are proving difficult to manage," Dr Caldicott said.

"There are other courses on medicinal cannabis available, but they are written for overseas audiences."

Dr Caldicott said the Melbourne course was written especially for Australian healthcare practitioners.

"We have spent hours in the National Museum, just to write the introduction on the colonial history behind medicinal cannabis in Australia," he said.

"We are academically independent and apolitical. This means we can stick to the science, and not have to spruik any one faction's agenda - and there are a whole bunch of factions out there."

About 80 people, ranging from medical doctors and government officials to private citizens, will attend the day-long workshop that opens the 2017 United in Compassion Medical Cannabis Symposium at Crowne Plaza in Melbourne.