“For Years I’ve Heard About The Benefits Of Medicinal Cannabis However I Remained Sceptical”

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An NSWNMA Medicinal Cannabis Forum held in Coffs Harbour earlier in 2018.

The NSWNMA regularly runs forums, seminars and workshops on a wide range of issues to assist nurses in their careers while earning CPD hours. You can check out upcoming events on their event calendar page here.

The below submission was written by Registered Nurse Kristy Mabagos after she attended a Medicinal Cannabis forum earlier this year.

Firstly, I would like to thank the NSWNMA for providing a highly informational event available for nurses. I am not only astounded by the amount of information and knowledge I received in the one event, but more so grateful this is now openly discussed for greater awareness and education to the public.

I found out about the forum through an advertisement I saw in the Lamp magazine. For years I’ve heard about the benefits of medicinal cannabis however I remained sceptical.

My curiosity grew as within the past year, I noticed an increasing number of patients and families of patients discussing medicinal cannabis and asking myself and other healthcare workers about its benefits and access. Unable to source Australian-credible information or direct these patients and families where to obtain legal access, I began my own research. I am aware now that it is legal for patients to request access for medicinal cannabis through a referral by an authorised GP or specialist who then needs to apply for an approval through the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Special Access Scheme. The process is lengthy and by the time, if approved, who knows how a patient’s condition may have deteriorated.

I met Lucy Haslam at the forum who is the Executive Director and Co-founder of United In Compassion, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to advocating patient access to medical cannabis. A documentary directed by Helen Kapalos was screened – A Life Of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana (now available on Netflix).  Lucy’s son, Dan Haslam who is the main subject of the documentary was 20 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He used medicinal cannabis to symptom manage his condition as he underwent chemotherapy. I feel touched by this story because if Dan were alive today, we would be the same age.

As the day continued at the forum, I began to understand the frustration nurses, patients and advocates felt together. Though legal to request access, the process feels tentative to fail through timing and price and most doctors are reluctant to prescribe. Carol Ireland who is the CEO and Managing Director of Epilepsy Action Australia explained that it can cost an estimated $40,000 for child of epilepsy to pay for medicinal cannabis. How could one household afford that annual cost and what more if it were a single parent?

The more I sought for information the more interesting this field came to me. I was informed by Lucy Haslam to attend an industry event which was held in Sydney on October 29th and 30th. It was there I met the industry and it opened my eyes to who were the key stakeholders.

I met a young girl named Rylie Maedler who at the age of 7 used medicinal cannabis to treat her facial tumours and seizures, now at the age of 12 she is able to take control, furthermore she was able to change the law in her home state of Delaware in the United States for paediatrics access to the medicine. You can read more about her story here in her foundation – https://ryliessmilefoundation.org/

It is a fact that nurses are at the forefront of patient care. I was shocked that when I met an Australian director of a medical cannabis producer, directly state to me  “No, doctors are at the forefront”.

Rather than fuel my fury and switch to defend not only myself and all nurses, I decided to remain calm and let this director find out for himself that one day when he or a loved one is in a hospital bed and the call buzzer is pressed – who is at the forefront to answer that call? Yes, that’s right… a nurse.

Thank you again NSWNMA for allowing me to engage in an eye-opening field of medicinal cannabis. It is definitely here to stay and will be increasingly talked about. I will definitely look out for more informative events and now advocate for increased awareness and education.

Have you recently attended an education event run by the NSWNMA? Let us know what you learned by emailing nurseuncut@nswnma.asn.au

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