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Australian Advocacy Group Joins Push for Reform

Sydney city skyline view from ferry

Legalization advocates have stepped up pressure on Australian officials to ensure safe, legal access to medical cannabis with the launch of a new grassroots campaign, dubbed Greenlight. The project frames cannabis access as a human-rights issue, presenting compelling stories from patients who use medical cannabis to successfully treat medical conditions such as fibromyalgia and the side effects of chemotherapy. At the core of the campaign is a claim for “the rights of everyday Australians who are suffering needlessly.”

Among those Australians is Katelyn Lambert, whose father, Michael, has been charged with breaking the law for using cannabis extract to treat her Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of childhood epilepsy. Katelyn is also the granddaughter of Barry and Joy Lambert, founders of the Lambert Initiative, a multimillion-dollar research fund for medical cannabis.

“I know what it has done for our granddaughter,” Michael said of his daughter’s treatment, “and what it does for tens of thousands of other Australians.”

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Lambert’s Greenlight campaign will try to secure medical cannabis for Katelyn and all Australians who suffer from conditions that can be treated with medical cannabis. Michael has also called out the Australian government for protecting the opioid painkiller industry.

“It is a campaign to fight for the rights of everyday Australians who are suffering needlessly.”
Michael Lambert, father of patient with Dravet syndrome

“The public needs to know that the government is hiding behind the science and safety of medicinal cannabis to protect the commercial interests of a very powerful industry that has been pushing very harmful opioids across the world and preventing people from accessing natural whole plant products,” he said.

Recent studies have shown that American states where medical cannabis is legal have witnessed significant declines in prescriptions for opioid painkillers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, pharmaceutical manufacturers of opioid painkillers have a history of funding opposition to cannabis legalization. Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin, were came under fire in the Los Angeles Times late last year for downplaying the risk of opioid addiction while moving rapidly into new markets.

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But for the Lamberts, the campaign isn’t about market share.

It’s “not about a commercial outcome,” Michael said. “It is a campaign to fight for the rights of everyday Australians who are suffering needlessly.”

And in some ways it’s already succeeding.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive by the citizens of Australia,” he explained. “This comes from people who depend on the medicines through to those who find it a crime against humanity that certain people in government appear to put the special interests of pharmaceutical companies and the poppy industry ahead of the rights of individuals to live their best life.”

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Greenlight wants to convince lawmakers to approve a “transitional compassionate access scheme,” the campaign says, which would cut through red tape and give immediate relief to patients already suffering. The scheme is currently being drafted. In the interim, the campaign calls on Australians to petition the government through its website, and lays out an eight-step plan for building a comprehensive, permanent framework for access.

That framework is based on studying the human body’s endocannabinoid system, ending the criminalization of caretakers who supply medical cannabis to patients, and creating regulated pathways for the production and distribution of medical cannabis. According to Greenlight, the claim that we need more “evidence based research” before acting is merely an excuse to unnecessarily slow down medicinal cannabis from gaining access to the patient market.

The campaign will hold an official media launch early this month.