Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the opening of Australia's first medicinal cannabis farm today on the outskirts of Tamworth, New South Wales. The 47-hectare property has been named Dan Eden in honour of Dan Haslam, who passed away from bowel cancer in February 2015.
Before his death, Dan campaigned for the legalisation of medical cannabis, which gave the 25-year-old relief from extreme nausea brought on by his chemotherapy. His mum, Lucy Haslam, has since become one of Australia's leading advocates for medical cannabis, starting a not-for-profit organisation called United in Compassion (UIC).
"Amongst your grief, which you will carry for a long time, you have managed to use that energy to do something in a positive way," Mr Joyce told Lucy and her husband Lou today. "When you can find a use for any part of a plant that can assist people when they are ill, when they are in pain, you should do it."
UIC's Tamworth farm is the first in the country to get the go-ahead to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, there's still a long way before they can start producing. Firstly, more federal legislation needs passing, and the government haven't indicated a time frame for this. Secondly, UIC needs to be approved as a licensed grower in the state.
NSW hasn't yet taken the next step in medical cannabis legalisation, which Victoria did earlier this week, rolling out the framework to get the industry up and running. UIC managing director Troy Langman today expressed his support for the Victorian government's decision.
"I think it's great news for patients all over Australia," he told the ABC. "Somebody had to make the first move and I reckon that should put pressure on other states to follow suit as soon as possible."