Australia to plough millions into cannabis research

Australia’s government has signed off millions of dollars to help fund research into the use of marijuana in medicine.

The country’s health minister – Greg Hunt – this morning announced that three million Australian dollars (USD $2m) will be handed over to a research programme on the beneficial effects of cannabis for cancer patients.

Hunt made the announcement during a speech at a charity walk organised by singer and actress Olivia Newton-John. The Grease star has been suffering with various forms of cancer for several years.

Most recently, the English-born Australian songstress has been taking cannabis oil from plants grown by her husband at their California home to help manage the pain of her stage-four breast cancer.

The couple, along with their family, are currently leading a campaign to persuade Australian authorities to legalise medical cannabis throughout the country.

Next month, the four-time Grammy Award winner will be auctioning some of her famous outfits including the iconic black trousers and leather jacket from the 1978 hit Grease as well as gold shorts and a top from her 1981 ‘Physical’ album.

Money raised from the sale will go to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne.

Prescription only

While legal in large parts of Australia, medicinal cannabis is only available to patients via a doctor’s prescription.

However, as the demand for medical cannabis grows, Greg Hunt says the government is responding in a positive manner and has increased the accessibility of treatment for more than 11,000 patients. To amplify that work, though, doctors say they need more official research to back up the legitimacy of prescribing the drug.

“There have only been a limited number of well-designed clinical studies on medicinal cannabis, and we need to increase the evidence base to support medical professionals,” Hunt affirmed.

Last month, the Australian Capital Territory became the first state to legalise cannabis for personal use. The legislation – yet to be approved by central government – will come into effect from January 31 2020.

Many proponents of marijuana believe the bill, coupled with Australia’s spearheading of medical research, may pave the way to full legalisation at a national level.