In October last year the Victorian Government announced plans to regulate sales of medicinal cannabis by 2017. A week later the Federal Minister for Health, Susan Ley, revealed the Turnbull Government would amend legislation to allow Victoria to go ahead with the scheme, as well as any other state similarly inclined. So suddenly it's on. A legal, regulated cannabis industry is on the horizon, and private companies are lining up to cash in.
Not that this has affected current law enforcement directives. In December, just a few months after Victoria's big announcement, a retired couple from Melbourne appeared in court for supplying tinctures and chocolates to sick children. The couple were supplying these products on a donation-only basis and are now appealing for assistance to help with legal fees.
The latest person to face court is Langdon Brown, owner of Don Medicinal Cannabis. Langdon sells medicinal cannabis tinctures, oil, and hash dabs to around 1000 people and was arrested late last year. On January 19 he'll appear at the Lismore District Court where he could potentially face 15 year's jail. For obvious reasons, this seems like a painfully dumb situation.
We spoke to Langdon about his business, the law, and how he feels about being arrested on the wrong end of history.
VICE: Hi Langdon, can you tell me how this began?
Langdon Brown: Sure. I was driving back from meeting a chemist and I was 'randomly' pulled over. I'd already gone past the police car and five minutes later it chased me down the street, which means my number plate marked me as a person of interest. First they asked if I had anything in the car and I mentioned I had cannabis oil and then the process began. The officer called in the detectives and they charged me with supply and possession of cannabis oil.
Were they nice about it?
The young officer who pulled me over originally, he said I know what you're doing; I know you're helping people . The problem is that in Australia is we need to wrap our heads around the fact this plant is useful for a lot more than smoking.
Do you use the oil yourself?
I was a chronic asthmatic until about 24 months ago, when I started using cannabis oil. I have not used synthetics for almost two years now. The result for me with cannabis oil was instant.
Is this how you got into selling it?
Yes. Up until I entered the medicinal cannabis industry I was a senior financial planner at Westpac. When I started using oil I read a report in 2013 by the director of St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. The report claimed medicinal cannabis should be recognised as medicine and this was basically instrumental in me leaving Westpac.
How did your friends and your family feel when you ditched Westpac for weed?
Oh, my conservative Japanese wife was shocked. But actually I have two young daughters and they now help every day to get the orders out. My daughters would never understand why their dad, who is helping to save lives, would be sent to prison.
Has selling pot affected your other career prospects?
For sure. I'm qualified in Japan and Singapore as a senior financial planner; I can't go there anymore. Thanks Australia.
Speaking of finance, a lot of people give away their oil, but you sell it. How do you defend this decision?
The economics behind medicinal cannabis oil are easy to understand. A pound of good quality cannabis costs between $3,500 and $4,000. A chemist makes about 50 grams of oil with a pound, which costs $70 a gram, before we pay the chemist, and then I sell it for $110 per millilitre. I actually don't have a pot to piss in. I was paid $9,400 for last year's work.
So why do it?
I believe I have an ethical responsibility to help as many people as possible. I respect the law, but the law is wrong and people are suffering. People are dying. I send out all my customers and people interested a weekly newsletter, and at least once or twice a week someone emails back to say, will you kindly take us off the list because Mr Smith is unfortunately no longer around.
This isn't just an excuse to get high?
No, no, it's way beyond that. It's the doctors we have to listen to.
So do you have a message for our politicians?
Yes. First of all, stop using international pharmaceutical companies for these medicinal cannabis trials. You make it legal for me and I can make it half price and finally I could make a profit too. This tree is treated like a weed will grow like a weed but if it's treated like it's something special it will grow into something that will amaze people.
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