3rd January 2018: With its 'Guidances' now out and a Federally funded research centre up and running Government policy is now a spectacularly easy target for 2018
Where bullshit and cannabis are concerned there’s a ‘principle of assymetry’ currently at play known as ‘Brandolini’s Law’, after the Italian computer programmer for after whom the principle was named.
It states, simply,’The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude greater than that to produce it‘.
And how very true that is when it comes to what the Australian Government has been doing and saying about medicinal use of the plant – a concerted campaign of lies, deceit and misinformation reaching a zenith in absolute nonsense just before Christmas when its ‘Guidances’ on use of the medicine were published.
Those who’ve been paying attention will have seen all this coming a mile off – as far back as January 2016 in fact, when we reported on how ‘Foxes’ had been set by the Government to guard the ‘Medicinal Cannabis Henhouse’.
Released three days before Christmas, the seven separate booklets claim to provide a basic overview of the subject, general information for patients and ‘guidance’ for the use of cannabis in treating multiple sclerosis, in palliative care, for epilepsy in paediatric and young adult patients as well as prevention or management of nausea and vomiting and chronic non-cancer pain.
The collection would be hilarious – both for the breathtaking predictability of its content and flagrant disregard for the truth- were it not such a serious matter.
That’s because, regardless of a growing corpus of science, the documents stick rigidly to the now hackneyed (and false) party line of ‘not enough evidence’ – for the use of a supremely non-toxic herb that’s been in use for thousands of years and is among the most closely studied of all.
The reason? Well, since the end of 2016, some of the most rabidly anti-cannabis thought leaders and academics – not just in Australia but on the face of the planet – have been beavering away at the behest of the Government writing an ‘Evidence Review’ to provide an intellectual basis for the ‘Guidances’ that have now finally surfaced. Never mind they were using decades-old material mainly gleaned from the only research then available – that is into the harms. Never mind they ignored swathes of more up-to-date and favourable studies (some not in English, hence excluded). Never mind they were offered (and refused) help from the best of the best overseas. No, this bunch had its brief and they’d adhere to it, regardless of how ridiculous it would eventually look.
Those involved include Wayne Hall – an author whose works fit perfectly with the now quaintly old-fashioned Reefer Madness narrative of yore – and Jan Copeland, ex-Head of the now defunct National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre which the Government shut down last year. Both have done very nicely thank you peddling such rot over years. The real world – real patients – don’t get look-in.
One of them, Copeland, even claimed that ‘The burden of disease, however, due to cannabis use and dependence is estimated to be greater than that of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C combined.’ This was when NCPIC first opened its doors.
$40 million and 8 years later and of course not one death had been attributed to the drug while its use steadily rose. So the Centre’s ‘accomplishments’ – whatever they actually were – are in reality hard to discern.
Soon though, all seven of their ‘Guidances’ will be made easy pickings of by those who know what they’re talking about – and which we’ll report in due course.
But that’s where where Brandolini’s Law comes in – the time and trouble it’s likely to take to set the record straight, especially with a media that’s already swallowed the Government’s story hook, line and sinker, could well outweigh whatever effort it took scribbling the hideous things to begin with. And meanwhile, doctors and policy-makers who ought to know better but don’t, have these official positions to fall back on when failing to take positive action.
Within hours of the documents being released, Dr David Caldicott, who authored this country’s most detailed, highly regarded and authoratative ‘Medical Cannabis Course‘ – and which was offered to and turned down by the Government – said the following over four short bursts on Twitter:
‘There’s a place on the Interweb that catalogues the various iterations of what has been released in the past, which we can tease when we know better. In just a decade’s time, these guidances will be mocked as an example of the abuse of science,‘ one of them said, to be followed a few minutes later by:
‘The choice to consider only published studies, while ignoring global demographic and prescribing data, as well as best practice guidelines – which they cite as having! – is political, designed to arrive at conclusions that suit parties other than patients. Shameful.’
‘The sad reality is that these ‘Guidances’ provide precious little guidance to either prescriber or patient, and will do next to nothing to change the status quo – an illicit market of uncertain provenance, accessed by desperate patients.‘
‘These Guidances do not tally with the experience of tens of thousands of patients in Australia – millions worldwide – & so will simply be ignored, even by doctors who choose to educate themselves, overseas and online about the ‘actual’ pros & cons of medicinal cannabis.’
Already 2018 is shaping up to be a fighting one for patients and advocates, who now see officialdom’s ducks finally all in a row – including the new Federally-funded ACRE (Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence) recently awarded a further $3 million from the NSW Government to provide an information hotline for doctors to expedite the prescription process.
Almost immediately though, ACRE’s Chief Jennifer Martin was rounded on by the Telegraph as an individual more keen on slowing the cannabis journey than hastening it.
And previously, the Professor – who also sits on the Government’s ‘Expert Advisory Council’ – has said wider use of the medicine would hamper research funding, a prediction that’s proven true for her and her organisation which now sits on well over $10 million.
But the week that commenced Boxing Day wasn’t a comfortable one for Martin who, in addition to the Telegraph piece, also came in for criticism during two separate radio segments (on 27th & 28th respectively) one featuring businessman turned Hemp Oil producer Barry Lambert and the other with United in Compassion’s Lucy Haslam.
With ACRE manned largely by a plethora of cannabis sceptics and the Guidances sufficiently out of sync with the rest of the world to make not only its authors but the entire Australian Government look absurd there’s little more the Authorities can now do other than to reap the whirlwind of such disastrous policy.
And just to add insult to injury, only this week (comm. 1st Jan) the self-styled ‘Medical Cannabis Council‘ – which purports to be a kind of Peak body for this country’s now floundering ‘industry’ – published what must warrant some sort of award for being the worst-timed, tone deaf and insensitive pieces of prose on the subject yet written.
Calling for the TGA to allow companies now invested in cannabis to export their products because of the small size of the Australian market, the article cheerfully accepts use of the product domestically remains years away because ‘evidence is anecdotal’ and random controlled trials will be necessary. ‘There’s only so much you can grow for research,’ the thing chirrups, ‘Therefore, the only way to allow the industry to grow and prosper is to allow for the exportation of products to the ever-growing global market.’
And it’s take on the plight of patients, some of whom could be dying for want of the drug?
‘Of course, if the state government loosened up their prescription approval process, then more patients could gain access through the various pathways for unapproved medicines, but that’s for another time.’
Perhaps had the industry (and the ‘Council’) put the needs of patients nearer to the centre of their business strategies rather than keeping them at the periphery they wouldn’t find themselves so heavily invested in such a terrible and unworkable system. Perhaps, had they advocated – not more strongly, but at all – for those in need of the medicine plants would be in the ground now. Instead, they argue due to ‘regulations established by the Federal Government‘ Australia has the makings of ‘a world leader in the cultivation and manufacturing of medical cannabis‘ – but only if they’re allowed to make exports.
Something is terribly wrong.
It all comes at a time of course when ending prohibition outright makes a return to the agenda following California’s legalisation of the herb on 2nd January. The Greens’ Richard di Natale tweeted about making this year one for ‘drug reform including weed legalisation’ while an online survey of 9 News viewers showed a massive majority in favour.
With all that said, and as Lucy Haslam put it in a recently published interview with AMCSignpost, 2017 wasn’t a great year for those who advocate for the medicine, and she’s completely spot on as a glance at this website will testify.
So to that end, and as is customary this time of year, we’ve taken a quick glance back over what we’ve covered in the last twelve months and picked out some highlights below. Nostalgia is pleasant if the memories you’re recalling are fond ones. In this case though it’s more of a nightmare.
In January we reported on what we termed a ‘Medical Cannabis Council Betrayal‘ when, finally, then Health Minister Sussan Ley announced one Andrew Southcott would head the long-awaited ‘Expert Advisory Council’ (a job he would later duck out of). The only trouble was, Southcott – like others later involved with the thing – was noted for his anti-weed stance and had even opposed hemp seed legalisation. It provided a taste of what was to follow when the full council was convened some weeks on.
January also saw the story refferred to at the beginning of this piece – Gov Puts Foxes In Charge Of Medical Cannabis Henhouse – which led to the already infamous Guidances we’ve been speaking of. ‘Anti-weed boffins to create guidelines for healthcare practitioners‘ we said at the time, and we’re sticking to it.
At the end of the same month came our survey of Big Pharma’s involvement with all this – ‘The Dirty War Over Medical Weed: Fear & Loathing in Pharmaland‘ it was called. ‘Billions of reasons why drug companies love and hate cannabis‘ and again its a thing we adhere to.
By mid- February we could see ‘Weed War Two‘ had broken out:
‘Botched policy, misleading the public, police raids, broken promises, deaths…and they wonder why people are getting fed up.’ We also discussed the raid on compassionate supplier Jenny Hallam – a case that’s still to be resolved – as well as success by the Queensland Medical Cannabis Advisory Group in persuading the Greens to force debate in the Senate about SAS Category A. The story would unfold over months.
It was also around this time the Government revealed what we called it’s ‘Cannabis Council Con‘ when it announced a shocking array of political appointees as its ‘Expert Advisors’. We awarded each of them up to five stars for respective degrees of sheer awfulness, with one of them, Wayne Hall, being given a six.
By March everyone, including us, had clearly had enough so we yelled ‘Violation! Government, Cannabis And The Abuse Of Australia’s Most Vulnerable‘ an outburst in which we described the cannabis debate as a human rights issue after a ‘Terminally Ill Woman’s Prescription Cannabis – Her Dying Wish – Snatched By Government’.
Later that month Wayne Hall copped more flack in a piece called ‘The Black Hole‘ after the anti-weed policy guru all but lied outright to radio listeners by saying of the recently published National Academy of Science review on cannabis which he said ‘found a very small list of indications for which there was some evidence of its effectiveness. In the majority of cases their conclusion was that it was modestly effective for some of these indications.’ But as many are aware, what the report – which was a pretty important one – actually said was quite different.
‘There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective:
:: For the treatment of chronic pain in adults (cannabis)
:: As anti-emetics in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (oral cannabinoids)
:: For improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms (oral cannabinoids)
There is moderate evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for:
:: Improving short-term sleep outcomes in individuals with sleep disturbance associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis (cannabinoids, primarily nabiximols)’.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good stich-up.
The next month of April we sent Greg Hunt – by then ensconced as Federal Health Minister following his predecessor’s public disgrace and resignation – some testimonials of those using illicit cannabis products. Both they and the supplier involved offered to come forward for clinical research – including those for whom cancers had successfully been treated – but we were completely ignored.
In May the first Senate attempt by the Greens to roll back the Government’s sneak attack preventing terminally ill patients from accessing cannabis failed, in part because Pauline Hanson decided to go with the Government. ‘Back-stabber!‘ we said at the time, ‘Hanson the turn-coat leaves medical cannabis campaigners to rot.’ It wasn’t long before her Facebook page was swamped by irate campaigners and her opinions rapidly changed.
That led, in June to a further nail-biting vote and ‘Government Defeated: Pot Now Available To The Seriously Ill And Dying‘. It was as we said, a ‘huge blow to Health Minister & TGA after Greens Senate Motion re-introduced and then carried‘, though sadly was a victory all too short-lived. Not long after (and probably illegally) the TGA wrote to importers to tell them their licences would be revoked if they brought products in to be accessed via SAS Category A.
Later that month we (re)published a survey by the MCUA (Medical Cannabis Users Association) which suggested ‘more GPs support or turn a blind eye to their patients use of medical cannabis than are opposed to it‘, though in the following month of July we found ‘Pain Specialists Being A Pain. Again‘ when their peak body ANZCA set about to doubling down on its anti-pot stance. It’s a body heavily subsidised by Big Pharma.
During August we went quiet, beavering away on a separate (but related) project, though we couldn’t ignore the tragic death in September of little Suli Peek who passed away never having been given the chance to obtain legal medicine.
A real ‘Australian Horror Story‘ it was – with tragically no improvement seen since.
As we alluded to in December, there’s a project underway at the moment which will take a few more months to complete (we’re looking at March) so the site might be quiet until then.
If so we sincerely hope real headway can be made in 2018. It should be possible, with, as we’ve said, all the Government ducks now out in a row.
Happy New Year!