Senator Richard di Natale, leader of the Australian Greens party, has introduced a new bill which he hopes will fix two impediments now standing in the way of Aussie patients trying to access critical medicine.
And now, di Natale and the Greens have an unexpected ally in their mission: Australian singer and actress Olivia Newton-John recently declared that when it comes to medical pain relief, she prefers cannabis.
In an interview with Today, Newton-John spoke candidly about using cannabis to medicate severe pain and inflammation connected to her cancer treatment.
“People have this vision from the ’60s of people just sitting around, you know, getting stoned. It’s not about that. This plant is a healing plant,” she told Today. ” I think we need to change the vision of what it is. Because it helped me greatly. And it helps with pain and inflammation.”
Newton-John also disclosed that her husband John Easterling grew the cannabis and created tinctures for her to use. Easterling sat in the Senate gallery as Senator di Natale introduced and defended his bill.
In June, Sen. di Natale successfully motioned to reverse stricter importing regulations introduced by the Australian government, re-opening an important channel for patient access to medical cannabis. But the government hit back, defying the Senate, by threatening to suspend importers’ licences and permits if they went ahead and imported medical cannabis.
The Australian government may have defied the Senate thus far, but when a national treasure takes up the cause, things step up to a new level.
In a recent speech before the Senate, di Natale lambasted the Australian government for ignoring dying patients and the Senate’s will on medical cannabis access.
“Instead of a pathway to access, we have regulation and red tape preventing people from getting access to these treatments that relieve people of pain and suffering,” he said. “We know that there is a problem when over 100,000 patients stand to benefit, yet under the government’s legislation only 200 or so people have got access to medicinal cannabis.”
If passed, the bill will make two amendments to the Customs Act and the Narcotic Drugs Act which together will ease restrictions on medical cannabis imports. The bill is the latest blow in an ongoing battle between the country’s conservative government and a bipartisan group of senators who have found a common cause in medicinal cannabis reform.
“This bill that the Greens are introducing will make sure that the government can’t block the importation of medicinal cannabis under the special access scheme,” di Natale said.
Although the bill won’t fix all of Australia’s medical cannabis problems, if passed it would strengthen and stabilize patient access to medical cannabis.