The following pages, which you can navigate through using the buttons on the right, summarise most of the 212 Public Submissions made to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in early 2015. All are lodged on the Parliament of Australia’s website. These, together with evidence given by expert witnesses at the three public hearings that took place between 30th March – 1st April would shape both the Committee’s final Report and Recommendations – which the Government mostly chose not to follow – and the eventual action it did take on the matter.
Collectively, the submissions run to over 1,000 pages (not including the attachments that accompanied some) and many are quite extraordinary, containing information – much of it highly technical – references and links to myriad other resources and for that reason alone they’re of interest.
But a lot of them are so much more, describing as they do the struggles people have undergone, frequently with small children involved, dealing with life-threatening medical conditions ‘normal’ therapies have failed to treat.
Obviously, what some in the medical profession see as a kind of sudden rush to use cannabis has been disturbing – and these views are expressed too. Such positions are perhaps understandable and obviously need to be taken into account where any future discussion of the drug is concerned.
As some experts point out, it’s usual only to hear about the success stories of cannabis, but what about those for whom it does not work?
But all kinds of submissions were received – from individuals who’d found relief using the drug to peak organisations representing various medical disciplines, academics, businesses involved in the sphere, many, as we have said, offering huge in-depth knowledge.
We’ve done our best to provide a short summary of each but reading at least some in full is strongly recommended.
All of course were in relation to the proposed Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 which would have created a bespoke, specially convened, single-purpose and national regulator to oversee all aspects of medical cannabis and its use. It would have by-passed existing regulatory processes and streamlined the growing and accessing of the drug making it more immediately and easily available for those with a genuine need as well as removing the need for additional State and Territory involvement.
The Senate Committee recommended the Bill be passed but the Government rejected this.
To try to make sense of the arguments for and against the proposal, we’ve divided Submissions into 6 categories, as follows:
:: Experts opposed to the Bill and new Regulator;
:: Experts in favour of it;
:: Individuals in favour;
:: Organisations in favour;
:: Organisations opposed;
Examining – and categorising – each in this way allows the arguments and perspectives involved to emerge, providing for a greater understanding of the issues involved. Without this it’s hard to ‘get’ the fullness of the debate, which is an incredibly rich one.
Where the categories are concerned, we’ve had to take a few liberties since one size rarely fits all.
While quite a number of the shorter submissions from (particularly) the ‘Individuals in Favour’ were concerned did not specifically state they supported the aims of the Bill, their general tone strongly suggests that they do.
Placing Lucy Haslam in the ‘Experts in Favour’ box for example was a decision based on the sheer extent of knowledge she has clearly accumulated over the last few years, which by now must be encyclopaedic. Others like Nicole Cowles and Lanai Carter – themselves tireless campaigners – could equally have gone in there to, but then it was ‘where do you stop?’
Some were difficult to classify in any way, so these were placed in the ‘Others’ but if anyone feels they’re in the wrong place we’re happy to shunt them around.
Finally, as you will find, the Submissions, collectively, were overwhelmingly in support of the Bill and new Regulator, or something like it. But some opinions, it is clear, held more sway than did others. Then there was the matter of the seventeen or items marked ‘Confidential’ which can’t be downloaded from the Australian Parliament website. Who wrote these, what they say and to what extent they had influence will it seems stay a mystery.