Key nursing union backs medicinal cannabis

One of Australia’s largest nursing unions has taken the significant and potentially controversial step of supporting the use and possession of medical cannabis.


The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), which has 59,000 members, said the drug could benefit patients suffering from chronic pain.

Its 23-member executive committee has adopted a resolution backing recommendations from a bipartisan NSW parliamentary committee, which in 2013 suggested AIDS and terminally-ill patients be allowed to possess and use up to 15g of dry cannabis.

The recommendation was knocked back by the then O’Farrell-led NSW government.

But the issue has since come back on to the state political agenda and Premier Mike Baird is said to be “sympathetic” about people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The premier is against recreational cannabis use but his advisers have repeatedly refused to answer AAP’s further questions about his stance on the drug, including whether or not he has ever tried it.

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes said on Sunday: “Our members recognise the importance of exploring improved options for effective pain management, particularly for those patients who suffer from constant chronic pain.”

The union pointed to the fact that medical cannabis is already used in other parts of the world by patients suffering from “nausea, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease and other chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorders”.

The NSWNMA has also signed a petition started by retired Tamworth nurse Lucy Haslam, whose 24-year-old son Daniel has terminal bowel cancer and uses cannabis to help with the side effects of chemotherapy.

The Haslam family’s online petition has attracted more than 50,000 signatures and calls for the decriminalisation of cannabis for people with terminal cancer.

“We can see the changes in him and fully believe that cannabis is absolutely the right path for him to go down as conventional treatments have failed him,” Ms Haslam said of her son.

The nursing union’s announcement comes just days after NSW Nationals MP Kevin Anderson revealed plans to introduce legislation that could legalise cannabis for terminally-ill patients.

Mr Anderson met Mr Baird in late May to discuss the plan, a key departure from NSW Coalition policy.

“The premier was sympathetic and listened intently while I explained the issue to him and the circumstances surrounding my decision to try and change the laws,” the Nationals MP said after the meeting.

Mr Baird said after the meeting that his government would give “careful consideration” to Mr Anderson’s bill.

He added: “I support the efforts of any Liberals and Nationals member who wishes to prepare a bill for consideration by the government.

“We will give careful consideration to Mr Anderson’s bill, and I have nothing but sympathy for the Haslam family as they struggle with their son’s illness.”