The man responsible for making NSW Premier Mike Baird rethink his stance on legalising cannabis for medical use has sadly passed away.
At just 25 years of age, Dan Haslam recently lost his five year battle against terminal bowel cancer.
Haslam’s story is a remarkable one. He was raised in a conservative family, with a father on the Police Drug squad. It seemed that he was unlikely to ever support cannabis legalisation.
He was diagnosed with bowel cancer and suffered immense pain as it quickly spread from his bowel to his liver and then to his bones.
He became weak though chemotherapy, and his legal painkillers did little to ease the pain, sometimes leaving him worse than when he didn’t take them.
A fellow cancer sufferer recommended that he take cannabis to ease the pain. Although sceptical at first, Haslam was quickly converted after trying the drug which did wonders to reduce his pain levels.
He said the difference was instant and unbelievable.
Haslam then became a staunch supporter of legalising cannabis for medicinal use, as did his mother who began a campaign to legalise it.
Mike Baird met with Haslam, and this meeting proved to be instrumental in changing the NSW Premier’s views on the use of cannabis medicinally.
Baird admitted that the meeting with Haslam left a deep impression on him, and announced a trial for the medical use of cannabis.
The trial is expected to start enrolling patients in 2016 and is likely to include terminally ill adults, chemotherapy patients and epileptic children.
Baird announced that if the trial is successful, the government will look at importing or cultivating cannabis within Australia.
But what about now?
Baird says that in the meantime, police have discretion about whether or not to charge those caught with small amounts of cannabis.
But this still leaves those in chronic pain who rely on cannabis vulnerable to drug charges.
Last month, NSW Leader of the Opposition Luke Foley proposed changing the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act immediately, so that patients cannot be prosecuted.
Foley believe that the trials are pointless because the medical benefits of marijuana are already obvious. He says that immediate changes to the Act will mean that sufferers will no longer fear prosecution, while at the same time saving $9 million that is currently set-aside for the trials.
However, supporters of the trials point out that they will provide more information about which types of illnesses and people are the most suitable for cannabis treatment.
Psychopharmacology researcher David Allsop, for example, that claims that although many people use cannabis to help with epilepsy, there is no research to back up their claims that it is effective.
He points out that epilepsy, unlike terminal cancer, is not likely to kill a person, meaning that the long-term effects of the drug may outweigh any immediate benefits.
Although Haslam died just months after the clinical trial was announced, his role in changing the mind of the Premier and so many others about cannabis legalisation will not be forgotten.
As Mike Baird said: “Every footstep we take on medical cannabis will be built on the footsteps he left behind.”