Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:23): I, too, rise to support this motion. Many of us as MPs have had constituents who have visited us through the course of the journey with the request about speeding up the process of trials on the benefits of medicinal marijuana, or medicinal cannabis I should say, and for many reasons.
I think there is an underlying issue that there is some level of uncertainty out there where people have the belief that it is all the same. I can assure you that it is not. There are a number of businesses that are trialling medical cannabis at the moment, but the make-up of the medical capabilities and properties that it has are quite different.
While I was a former Minister for Primary Industries, we saw significant trials for hemp in South Australia at government research centres. Confusion has overlaid the properties within industrial hemp, which does not have the same compounds that the other two groups do. There is the CBD product, which that comes from medicinal cannabis, but there is also the THC. The CBD is a cannabidiol, and it is there to treat medical conditions primarily. It has no more than 0.3 of THC, which is the stimulant that gives us the high, if you like. THC has quite a technical name of tetrahydrocannabinol and, as I said, it is the compound that gives the high.
The CBD is the product being used in a lot of the medical research, a lot of the trials at the moment, to help people with a number of medical issues that have been deemed appropriate for the use of these products, and we talk about mood disorders, chronic pain, inflammatory diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's. As the member for Mount Gambier touched on, he has a constituent whose daughter has been suffering seizures and epilepsy. Through trialling the CBD, they have had great success. I know that some of those trials continue. Currently, if you are South Australian, you have to have legal access by a registered doctor to give you a prescription of those products.
While I was visiting my son in the US recently—he lives in California—I was able to travel to a dispensary out of curiosity when I was suffering a few old sporting injuries. My son had said to me, 'Give a couple of these products a try,' which I did. I used a CBD cream on some of my joints (pardon the pun) and straightaway there was a reduction in swelling and the inflammatory issues I was having with my knee—whether caused by the plane flight over there or whether it was just wear and tear at a certain point in time I do not know—and I can genuinely say that I did have relief.
I guess along the course of the journey it is about understanding what this product means in the medical world. Some of the cynical conversations are that the big pharmas are not looking to support the release of this into mainstream medical use because it competes directly with their products.
I can say that a number of Australians and South Australians have used it. In 2019, about 2½ million Australian aged from 14 and over had used cannabis in the previous 12 months, including the use for medical purposes prescribed by a doctor—2.7 per cent of the total population using cannabis for medical purposes, either always or sometimes. However, only 3.9 per cent of those who said they used cannabis for medical purposes obtained it by a prescription. What that is showing us is that there is a lot of this product potentially in the black market. As these trials continue, we will see progress in developing these products and in the way they are administered and accepted. I think that is a lot of the issue at the moment.
I have a very sophisticated and advanced trial business in Chaffey that is currently having great results, and it has grown a number of different strains. Many of them are all gauged by the potency, whether it is the CBD or whether it is the THC. It does have a level of sophistication about how it is grown, the tissue culture types that are used and how the benefits are targeted to specific medical conditions. Some of the heavy opioids and other addictive substances have been proven to be unnecessary, and they are very, very addictive.
What we are seeing through these trials is that CBD particularly, the cannabidiol, does not have a level of dependency when you are using it on an ongoing basis to treat some of those medical conditions. In cases of juvenile epilepsy, it can often be dangerous to introduce children to these types of substances at an early age but, as I said, CBD has been classed as not being addictive or habit-forming in itself. Taking CBD oil is the safest course to get some of those benefits, particularly with young children suffering seizures and epilepsy.
I do not have firsthand experience with my children, but I do have friends whose children have had conditions involving seizures and epilepsy. They have taken traditional medicines and there have been significant side effects. It is quite concerning to see a young child having a seizure, and it is very concerning knowing that that child has epilepsy or a condition that could easily be treated by medical cannabis through the CBD format.
It is a worthy motion that has come to this house, allowing us to engage in the conversation. I urge governments, both federal and state, to give support to some of these alternative medicines. They have been proven to be very worthwhile, and have been proven to be non-addictive and have much fewer side effects when treating children, in particular.
It shows us that there is a level of use that is not prescribed, and there is a lot of use particularly for adults, and adults suffering advanced chronic pain, particularly back and joint pain. They have used the THC form of cannabis, but I think that as we progress through the trials the CBD, the cannabidiol, will play a much more significant role in treating some of those ailments and medical conditions.
More importantly, it is about not having the side effects, not having the medical impact, particularly on our children. It is very, very sad when we see medical intervention that comes at a price. With no further ado, I support the motion and hope it will be supported by both sides of this chamber.