ENGLAND - Desperate parents who believe they are using cannabis oil to treat chronically ill children could be administering nothing but methylated spirits, alcohol and water.
Forensic testing of medical marijuana has revealed dramatic variations in the contents of the product, which is often spruiked over the internet by unregulated producers who make bold claims about the benefits. A Victoria Police analysis suggests up to 40 per cent of vials bought by Victorian families contained just methylated spirits, pure alcohol and water. The results, seen by The Age, suggest in the remaining 60 per cent of vials tested, THC acid - the active component of cannabis - varied dramatically, ranging from low to high levels.
The worrying analysis follows an election pledge from Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews to legalise access to medical marijuana for Victorians with life threatening conditions. Labor has promised to instruct the Victorian Law Reform Commission to examine the prescription, manufacture and distribution of medical cannabis. But it remains unclear how the market for the product might be regulated under the plan. Premier Denis Napthine and Health Minister David Davis have so far resisted demands to legalise access, arguing there is a need for more medical evidence and research.
There have been vocal campaigns from Victorian families who say they have successfully treated chronically ill children with medical marijuana when other medicines have not worked. But The Age has seen internal state government documents raising concerns that a number of vials of medical cannabis bought by Victorian families and analysed for Victoria Police contained "a number of concerning substances", including methylated spirits and in another case "a high level of THC." The finding appears to contradict claims from some producers who say the product contains low levels of THC, without the psychoactive effects associated with recreational cannabis use.
Lucy Haslam, whose son Daniel has been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer, said the market for medical marijuana was unregulated, raising the prospect that unscrupulous operators had been "ripping off" cancer patients with inferior or dangerous products. "We are aiming for an approach which will provide a more consistent product," Ms Haslam said. Ms Haslam said there was no consistency of supply, quality or price for the illegal product. Damian Zammit, whose 10-year-old daughter Imogen has Dravet syndrome and has tried many medications, largely without success, said the danger was that without regulation medical cannabis might not be therapeutic, or might result in unwanted side effects. "Without regulation you are going to get all sorts of unscrupulous people selling products to make money without caring about the end result," Mr Zammit said.
One company responsible for the manufacture of medical cannabis in Australia, Mullaways, claims it is dedicated to the development of products to treat diseases "with and without psychoactive properties".
"Mullaways will adhere to scientific methodologies to develop, produce, and commercialise cannabinoid-based traditional medicines," the company's website says. Health Minister David Davis has asked his chief officer to provide more research on the issue, with the government believed to be more open to a medical, rather than a legal, approach to the issue.
The Caribbean Times.com/August 28, 2014
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