Fixing Cannabis Law Reform In Australia 2022-2023

Loren W
Melbourne
July 2022

Luckily, Labor was not cornered during the 2022 election on how Labor would address Cannabis Law reform going forward. That is they have already pseudo legalised REAL Cannabis in ACT in 2020, and not having to address what is next was on purpose. If saying they supported law reform then they are,  ‘soft on drugs”, if against it, then WTF? – It is important to look at what is broken what works, and how to fix things.

What Is Broken? – What Happened to REAL Cannabis Law Reform In Australia ?

In 2016, Australia Coalition/ Liberals / Department of Health, with Big Pharma’s help, did a few things on the path to law reform that started in 2014 in earnest. 

Libs Government Redefined the word ‘Cannabis’ different to most of the world including the USA, Canada, even different the WHO and UN, all at the behest of Big Pharma and the then Liberal / Coalition Government in 2016.

Above, the Government refers to Cannabis as a plant (correct), containing Cannabinoids (correct), then goes on to say (correctly) that Cannabinoids can be plant-derived or synthetic. But ignores that actual plant details. Since 2016, “Legal Plant derived Cannabis for medical use” Can be from REAL / Natural Cannabis/ Marijuana or Genetically Modified hemp (GMO) used to produce the cannabinoid CBD.

The result is, in 2022 Australia, currently about 90% of all legal Medical Cannabis is not REAL Cannabis/ Marijuana but a CBD cannabinoid from GMO hemp. There is also a “government supported Medical Cannabis Body, funded and lead by anti-REAL Cannabis Big Pharma.

NOTE: Outside Australia Cannabis via the WHO, USA, Canada, etc defined Cannabis as being from a Cannabis plant/Marijuana (Cannabis Indica, Sativa, or Ruderalis) –  and having a potency of 10% or higher in THC (THC is 1 of 120+ cannabinoids and 1 of 400+ other compounds in the Cannabis Plant. REAL Cannabis is low in the cannabinoid CBD.

Meanwhile hemp, is also defined (most botanists feel incorrectly) as also coming from the Cannabis Sativa plant though has low or zero THC, and again low CBD naturally.

This creates a confusing and often exploited set of variables by Big Pharma in Australia (not so much in the USA, Canada etc)
1) Cannabis Sativa (can be hemp or Cannabis/marijuana) Hemp having low or Zero THC high CBD and Cannabis Sativa/ Marijuana has low to zero CBD and higher THC.
2) Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis are higher in THC and have little or zero CBD.

Hemp typically as low CBD so requires GMO (genetic modification / selective breeding etc) to produce the CBD. Likewise REAL Cannabis/Marijauna typically has high THC naturally but is often seen to exclude CBD either naturally, or by breeding practices.

CBD is recessive / less dominate cannabinoid in Cannabis than THC. So CBD acts as an antagonist and modulator of THC at the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the human ECS (endo cannabinoid system) and balances the effects of Cannabis/marijuana. CBD is also psychoactive but different and less to THC. There are 120+ Cannabinoids and 400 other compounds in the very complicated Cannabis/Marijuana plant.

THC vs CBD – Real Cannabis (with 10% THC or higher) was legalised for medical use in 1996 USA, and 2001 in Canada. GMO CBD was not really legalised till 2003 – with Bayer AG / Monsanto Research and Development. In 2014 the USA FDA (Federal Drug Administration) starting shutting down CBD producers for purposely confusing customers of the benefits of CBD that were really for REAL Cannabis (CBD). That continues today impacting Australia and other countries.

2016 Cannabis Law Reform in Australia

I began talking to MPs in 2014, on law reform, and became involved in consultations prior to the laws being changed. Still opposition was from all sides overriding common sense / the status quo from the USA / Canada 20 years earlier. After anti-Cannabis campaigns from the department of health (Stoner Sloth Campaign Sussan Ley Health Minister), paid for research from NSW and WA, I then got involved in amendments to the Cannabis Access Bill 2016. There I saw Cannabis beginning to be confused with hemp (I thought by accident not by intent) I had an amendment approved to address this, mainly hoping a righteous media could see the problem. Though approved it did not fix the problem.

The result of the Australia 2016 laws, was CBD Hemp continued to be supported by Big pharma vs REAL Cannabis (with THC) – this is still seen on the TGA website, offering questionable evidence that CBD is better than REAL Cannabis for medical use. This is over seen by the TGA (therapeutics goods administration) and new body ODC (Office of Drug Control) Often joked and referred to as ‘Office of Drug Chaos’, lead on the change of definition of Cannabis and Hemp, forced the states and territories to agree, then made it so ‘growers needed about $2m dollars to become growers. Limiting all but big pharma that were anti-Cannabis.

When legalised in 2016 all Medical Cannabis had to be imported, most still is.

  1. This then created a new black market for CBD Hemp (real and synthetic)
  2. Empowered the black market for REAL Cannabis – Police said one group alone in Nimbin could be a $6m a year enterprise.
  3. Created a Medical Cannabis network that is against REAL Cannabis. This is on the GP and public facing website, using evidence from Big Pharma and GMO Hemp to push a dialogue that REAL Cannabis is a last result and has loads of problems.
  4. Those able to navigate the legal Cannabis red tape in Australia are faced with prices 300% higher than the black market for the same flower products, IF they can get access.
  5. Legal Suppliers of REAL Cannabis in Australia are not allowed to advertise or address the facts.

When Canada legalised REAL Cannabis / Marijuana for medical use and then recreational use, the PM Justin Trudeau, did so for harm reduction, arguing “The black market does not check ID, protect children or patients”

As 90% of the legal Cannabis market is not in REAL Cannabis (10% or higher THC) and even lower strength CBD is available over the counter now, and as REAL Cannabis is still listed as a narcotic, it is increasing difficult to make headway on law reform

It is also worth noting no state or country has EVER legalised REAL Cannabis for recreational use unless a working model for medical use was deployed prior. This has been both a social and logistical issue. States wanted to try medical first, and the logistics to REAL law reform is not simple.

When asked about this to the ODC and TGA in 2016, they made it no secret their concern is one day REAL Cannabis would be legal for recreational use. So preventing for medical use helped that agenda as supported by the Liberal Government for the last 9 years

WHAT WORKS ON CANNABIS LAW REFORM ?

In 2022, globally there is Legal Big Cannabis, Big Pharma, and Small Cannabis Suppliers . In 1996 and 2001 USA and Canada there was only small Cannabis. To facilitate the market, Cannabis suppliers had to have their product tested in labs to check for mould, parasites and CBD and THC potency levels, so customers were not confused. CBD only hit the market since 2014 and why Australia was hindered by this. Medical Dispensaries opened up in the USA and Canada since 1996 and eventually developed into a STS market (seed to sale) where from seed, to growing to selling is all tracked (and taxed). Since 1996, USA and Canada have mature models for medical use where customers can select a type / flavour / cultivar / strain of Cannabis they prefer, for their medical needs. Sativa tends to be less drowsy more uplifting than Indica, Indicas better for pain sleep etc.
Hybrids are common and a mix of both. Inside the 400 compounds in Cannabis are also Flavonoids, and Terpenes that give Cannabis its flavours and smells. Again certain terpenes in Indica plants tend to be stronger for pain relief than others, and also have different temperatures they are released at for those that vape flower for medical use. For pain relief, and other conditions, the balance of CBD and THC etc also impacts the right medicine

Fixing the Current Australia Cannabis Model

So currently, access is limited, the products are confusing, truthful advice is non-existent hard to come by. The TGAS website still makes it impossible to get product easily. So how to fix this? Well the 1st thing is you need to address the end game in Australia. What is the end result look like? Currently 90% of ALL Legal medical Cannabis / REAL Cannabis and GMO hemp comes from Canada), 90% of the Australia market is forced on CBD. A Labor 2017 Cannabis bill during a Liberal government addressed a few fixes that were addressed decades ago in the USA and Canada. Example Most GPs only in Australia cannot legally support Cannabis use, so an easy fix is to remove the need for them to do so. If we only look at the current model then REAL Cannabis is ONLY allowed for certain medical conditions (but sill impossible to get for most). So if being treated for Cancer, or neuropathic pain, etc already by the GP, then the 2017 bill says that is enough. Currently the largest suppliers of CBD hemp in Australia and globally (like Canopy Growth) are also the worlds largest supplier of REAL Cannabis for medical (and recreational use) as in Big Cannabis. They could easily supply a wanting marketplace. This leaves out the smaller growers, this could be addressed by a similar testing regime to USA and Canada 1996-2001 – Where growers would have their products tested, and then sold somehow different to the Australia pharmacy model. Perhaps all online (the Canada model)

Business Opportunity – Thus far the largest increase in Cannabis sales has been inspired and push by Governments globally as a source of revenue once all the other issues were addressed on ethics. This is a huge opportunity, for tax dollar generation, and small business growth also.

It is worth noting that Australia produces most of the worlds legal opiates for medical use, and the 2 biggest threats to that, are REAL Cannabis for medical use and synthetic opioids like fentanyl that has impacted the world. Such a risk that even the Opioid industry in Australia (big pharma has joined in against REAL Cannabis) and those that make synthetic opioids are also now making synthetic CBD and THC.

Easy ways to fix the Liberal system we still have –

It would be logical to read and adapt the 2017-2018 Labor Bill on legalising Cannabis for medical Use. Speak to Canopy Growth Australia on how to fix the problem as they have the global expertise. Avoid those in the medical Cannabis real if not aware those supporting legal medical Cannabis often have an anti-REAL Cannabis agenda as it competes with big pharma.

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