Kelly Vincent – ABC Adelaide Interview on Medical Cannabis

Narelle Graham: Kelly joined in a medical cannabis supporters rally over the weekend and she’s had to defend that stance on Twitter. I want to start with what the rally was all about?

Kelly Vincent: Right, the rally came out of a situation of a woman who’s become well-known in South Australia for providing medical cannabis, whose name is Jenny Hallam. Jenny has had her supply of medicinal cannabis confiscated by police, and she has been using to that produce cannabis oil for medicinal purposes for some 200 South Australians. Obviously that leave people who are very reliant on this oil for relieving pain and epileptic seizures for example, these people who are otherwise controlled by these and other symptoms without any real quality of life – they have been enjoying life with the use of this oil. So while we certainly, from my perspective, are not arguing about whether the police have done the right thing by stopping the supply – the job of the police is to enforce the law as it stand and I think they do that very well. We are simply saying that those laws that they are enforcing need to change.

Narelle Graham: You would like an amnesty on medical cannabis?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and we need more legal and cultural support around medical cannabis as well because I think there’s still a level of misunderstanding about what it really is and a level of stigma that isn’t helping anyone.

Narelle Graham: It’s interesting because there does seem to be a level of understanding about what medical cannabis is and you have got this Tweet sending directly to you saying ‘If that’s the case why don’t we decriminalise ice, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and the rest since they’re all psychiatric drugs and as medically fake as pot?’ And you gave quite a good response, what was your response?

Kelly Vincent: Well firstly, we are not talking about pot, we are not talking about marijuana, we are talking about medical cannabis. The difference is that medical cannabis is usually in the form of an oil and that does not contain THC, which is tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the property that gives a high so instead it contains CBD which is cannabinol and that doesn’t produce a high – as I understand it. I’m not an expert in this area but as I understand it’s lacking a property that would otherwise produce a high in pot. It is purely for medical purposes and it’s usually in the form of an oil. As I also responded to that particular person on Twitter there’s Hemp in the moisturiser that I used on my skin this morning and of course no-one’s getting high off of moisturiser so there are different properties depending on how the plan is produced and manufactured.

Narelle Graham: And I had thought that people were very clear on the difference between medical cannabis and the drug cannabis, where people can get a high from it clearly no, not everyone is up to speed. Where are we on the use of medical cannabis in South Australia? We had some legislation that has been passed, is it legal to use it?

Kelly Vincent: My understanding is that technically it is but there is still some cultural stigma and some law enforcement that makes it somewhat difficult so there is certainly some moves in the Parliament to clarify that.

Tammy Franks has proposed a motion and a bill before the Parliament to allow for the use of industrial hemp and also calling on easier provision of medical cannabis and absolutely we should support that.

The other thing, thus far this is the only negative feedback that I have received, the response both from the rally and from my social media post on this have been hugely positive. People don’t come to using medical cannabis out of a sense of fun or novelty, they really come to it as a source of a last resort. For example, a child who has quite severe, uncontrolled epilepsy where no other drug has worked and they are having uncontrolled seizures, multiple seizures a day, it is essentially causing brain damage, it’s impacting their ability to participate in school and even play with their friends – as a parent, I don’t have children but I can well imagine you would well turn to anything that you would think might help that child. For those people who have told me that it is has controlled their child’s seizures, that it controls their chronic pain, their symptoms of their cancer treatment, their symptoms of their multiple sclerosis, how could I as a Member of Parliament – how could I ever not do whatever I can in my role to support easier access to that drug that is helping them have better quality of life?


Narelle Graham: We have had a text message “has medical marijuana actually been proven to work or just a touchy, feely, hippy thing?” Thank you, Brad. I notice that there have been advertising at Flinders Medical Centre for people to take part in a study and this is to do with using the oil as a treatment for epilepsy so there is still some way to go on that has there been some proof, Kelly Vincent, that you’re aware of?


Kelly Vincent: I think there’s been quite a lot of substantial research done into this. I certainly trust what I have read, I certainly trust the stories of those constituents who have come to me and said that this is the only thing that has provided relief from their child’s daily seizures, from the pain that they might experience from chronic illnesses and disabilities. As a person with a disability I’m used to be being policed or interrogated myself about what I should do with my body and therefore I don’t think for me to say that something does or doesn’t work if someone is telling me that it does in that particular instance. We do need more substantial research to be done in this area. I’d also like to ensure that those who swear by this right now, that they’re getting relief for themselves and for their families to have easier access to it.


Narelle Graham: The Government’s holding this round table discussion next Monday, are you involved in that?


Kelly Vincent: Look, I’m not directly but would be happy to if necessary.

Narelle Graham: If you’re invited [laughs] I’m not sure exactly who has got a seat at that table. I appreciate your time.