Australia has suddenly taken the lead in the rapidly accelerating global debate over marijuana's medical use.
Last November, politicians in the Australian Capital Territory voted to allow doctors to determine when marijuana is medically appropriate. The decision enraged the Australian Federal Police and intensive lobbying efforts began to reverse the legislative action. In a scene that has become all too familiar, legislators caved-in to the demands of the police, reversed their earlier action, and voted to block doctors from legally prescribing marijuana.
Despite this political confusion the med-pot debate has rapidly spread to other Australian states. According to numerous press accounts, Australian physicians, backed by AIDS and cancer groups, are supporting political moves to end the medical prohibition of marijuana. Similar political actions are being planned in New South Wales and West Australia.
"Most Australians think doctors and patients -- not bureaucrats and vice cops -- should decide when marijuana is medically needed," said Robert Randall, president of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT). Randall called reversal of the Australian Capital Territory action, "A shocking, even frightening display of overt police interference in the political process, and in the practice of medicine."
Australian efforts to end the medical prohibition of marijuana are part of a rapidly expanding global debate over the inexpensive plant's therapeutic importance. Among recent global developments:
"There is a growing global awareness of marijuana's tremendous medical importance," Randall said. "In Australia we are witnessing the first political efforts beyond the United States to replace Reefer Madness with a more sane and humane system of physician-mediated medical access to marijuana."
ACT News - Spring 1995