The Australian government has announced plans to allow cannabis to be legally grown for medical and scientific purposes. Under current laws, marijuana is classified as an illegal drug, and while penalties vary from state to state, people who grow, use, possess or sell it can be fined or sent to prison. Health Minister Sussan Ley explained the reasoning behind the new law: “We are incredibly sympathetic to the suffering of those Australians with debilitating illnesses and we want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available.”
A petition on Change.org to decriminalize the drug for medical use was initiated by retired nurse Lucy Haslam. Her late son Daniel used medical cannabis to ease the pain of terminal cancer before his death at 25. In a blog post she wrote, “It wasn’t until a fellow cancer sufferer suggested he try cannabis that his life with cancer became a little more tolerable. A sick young man reluctantly tried a joint and just like that, he felt so much better.”
The government said it was important to emphasize that the announcement was not a debate about legalizing of marijuana for recreational use. However, the global trend has been that legalization for medical use is often the first step that can lead to a more widespread decriminalization.