Media Release

27 February 2018

NSW Labor has decried the Berejiklian Government’s approach to allowing terminally ill patients and people with serious illnesses to access medicinal cannabis – releasing official data showing only a handful of patients are getting legal access.

NSW Labor today released official NSW Health data showing that only 61 NSW patients had been approved – outside official clinical trials – between August 2016 and December 31, 2017.

NSW Labor leader in the Upper House Adam Searle and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord questioned whether the Berejiklian Government was actually committed to supporting access to medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill.

Mr Searle and Mr Secord called on the Berejiklian Government to remove the State Government’s obstacles and look for ways to expand access for those in need – especially palliative care patients.

Mr Searle said while in Canada and Israel, there are tens of thousands of patients getting lawful access to medicinal cannabis. In Israel, there are 26,000 registered medicinal cannabis users and its total population is almost the same as NSW.

Mr Secord said the system is so “cumbersome and needlessly bureaucratic” that patients have been actively discouraged from even applying – with a mere 84 lodging applications.

The current approach by the Berejiklian Government is to give the impression that they support access to medicinal cannabis, but then on the other hand to thwart the applications. This is completely against the spirit of the good work of the former Premier Mike Baird.

(As early as July 2014, the then-Premier Mike Baird indicated that he supported medicinal cannabis for terminally ill patients.)

In the period 1 August 2016 to 31 December 2017, NSW Health received 84 applications for authority to prescribe and supply cannabis-based products (including nabiximols, dronabinol, and nabilone) for the treatment of individual patients – and 61 applications were approved.  (This figure excludes treatment of individuals as part of a clinical trial.)  

On February 22, Mr Searle introduced the legislation – Medicinal Cannabis (Compassionate Access) Bill 2018 into the NSW Parliament – to legalise medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill and people with serious illness. Debate will resume in early March.

A future Labor government will oversee a more compassionate access scheme for terminal patients and others with serious medical conditions to use medicinal cannabis.

Labor’s legislation, first introduced in February 2017, provides a safe and lawful way for sufferers to access medicinal cannabis.

It would require patients to receive a photo ID and medical certification from NSW Health in order to possess medicinal cannabis. These amounts can be adjusted by regulation, according to the medical treatment needed.


Quotes attributable to Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council Adam Searle:

“It’s deeply disappointing to see the lack of effective action by the NSW Government in providing pain relief to those suffering terminal and serious medical conditions.

“The NSW Opposition is being told that patients with terminal illnesses in NSW are suffering because the Government is making doctors submit and re-submit applications, resulting in hours and hours of unnecessary and cumbersome paperwork. The requirement for people who are seriously ill to have to navigate complex bureaucratic processes is clearly not working simply or effectively.

“Access to a safe and secure supply of medicinal cannabis is about compassion. That means we have to find a more responsive way forward.”


Quotes attributable to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord: 

“The Berejiklian Government needs a shake-up. I have received dozens of inquiries and requests about medicinal cannabis. I do not believe that only 84 patients have come forward.”

“The Berejiklian Government must remove the obstacles and provide access for terminally ill patients. The community’s views are clear and they want to see medicinal cannabis available to the terminally ill.”

“It is heart-breaking for family members to see their loved ones suffering when access to medicinal cannabis can relieve a tiny fraction of their pain.”