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Australia's Prime Minister Surprised Australia by Backing Medicinal Marijuana

Tony Abbott is being reasonable. Let's not break out the Nobel Prize just yet.

by Girard Dorney
18 September 2014, 6:25am

Chances are you don’t listen to conservative Sydney radio host Alan Jones, because you’re reading this, and the cross-section of people who enjoy both Jones and VICE can be found cackling in the basement of my apartment building.

So your first exposure to this story about weed and our Australian PM is more likely to have been through this Buzzfeed article posted yesterday. But if you haven’t seen that, and if you don’t have weed-smoking friends on Facebook (that’s nobody. If you’re on Facebook you have a stoner Facebook friend), here’s the lowdown:

Dan Haslam is a 24-year-old suffering from cancer who is using marijuana to help him deal with the nausea associated with chemotherapy. His mother has launched an online petition to decriminalise cannabis for pain relief. (You can find it here).

2GB host Alan Jones (I call him Jonesy-poo because I find his bald head and plumpness to be adorable—he looks like a large wrinkled baby wearing a pink shirt and a grey suit) has been supporting the campaign and yesterday read on-air a personal letter from Tony Abbott, which explained how our Prime Minister is in favour of legalising medical marijuana.

The letter is pretty straightforward, although it contains an element that has given those in favour of legalising recreational use of marijuana cause for hope: it’s how uncontroversial Abbott seems to think the topic is. “I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis,” the letter reads, and goes on to state that, “I have no problem with the medical use of opiates. I was under the impression that the personal use of cannabis was no longer an offence in New South Wales.”

The plain-spoken tone, and vague inference that underneath the tightly-wound exterior Abbott is a loveable, joint-toking Harold Ramis, received excited coverage. It had sites like The Vine posting an article headlined, "Tony Abbott is totally down with weed.

That the reaction has been so positive and playful is indicative of how just low certain people’s expectations of Abbott have become. Because let’s break this down a moment. What Abbott is actually saying is that if a human being is suffering from something debilitating, that could kill them, if that human is having doctors chemically poison them in an effort to rid themselves of cancer—in those circumstances Abbott is okay with them taking a drug that could help ease their pain.

Pardon my cynicism but holy shit, he better fucking think that. What kind of monster wants to deny pain relief to the sick?

I’m not saying it’s not a good thing, and by all means have a commemorative bong hit, but all this comes down to is our PM holds an opinion that’s a basic sign of decency. It’s not as if legalisation of recreational marijuana is around the corner, we did just have a crackdown in Nimbin, Australia’s unofficial cannabis capital.

And sure, there’s been some good news recently for the Australian children of Mary Jane. The Labor party of Victoria has promised to make medical marijuana legal if it wins office and this Tuesday a clinical trial of medical marijuana in NSW, approved by Premier Mike Baird, was confirmed. It’s also great that Abbott thinks such a trial is largely unnecessary—that if a drug is approved in a dependable jurisdiction it should be made legal.

But there may be a long wait between the legalisation of medicinal weed and the legalisation of weed for recreational use. Medical marijuana was legalised in the US state of California in 1996. It took another 16 years before any US state legalised it across the board.

However, if you are in favour of the legalisation of drugs, and you want solace from Tony Abbott, here’s what you do. Adopt the most open interpretation of this statement from his letter, “my basic contention is that something that has been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn’t need to be tested again here.” And then hope things don’t take a turn for the worse in Colorado and Washington.

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