Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on Medical Cannabis and Accessible Toilets

Kelly Vincent is the Member for the Dignity Party, it is called now – Dignity Party in the Upper House here in South Australia. And Kelly was at a rally last weekend. Kelly, thanks for speaking to us. Good to catch up with you again.


KELLY VINCENT: Good to be with you, Peter. How are things?


PETER GRECO: Very good, thank you! And you obviously got the year off to a bright start. You were at a rally last Saturday, I think, wasn’t it?


KELLY VINCENT: That’s right, yes. A rally calling for an amnesty and some changes around the law in South Australia to do with medical cannabis. And it is important to remember that what we are talking about here is generally not the marijuana, which is smoked, we are talking about cannabis oil – which is an oil made of the cannabis plant, obviously, and is not contain the properties that would produce a high. So it’s important, I think, to separate this very important medicine from marijuana for recreational use.


PETER GRECO: So, is this something that everyone should be aware of, including politicians?


KELLY VINCENT: Absolutely, because there are many people in our state, some of whom have been in contact with me, and I always appreciate hearing the stories – who have turned medical cannabis, specifically cannabis oil, because they have simply found no belief, or not enough relief from other pharmaceutical drugs. They could be people with symptoms from cancer treatment, or even multiple sclerosis; I have spoken to a few parents who have young children who have uncontrolled seizures due to quite severe epilepsy and as a result they having daily seizures, unable to attend school full-time, unable to play with their friends, and that’s having a big impact on their development. And cannabis oil is the only thing that is giving them, their children, and their families any kind of relief. So, it is a great shame that we still have so much stigma around this important drug.


PETER GRECO: So, is the oil taken internally?


KELLY VINCENT: Yes, as I understand it. I understand the oil is taken internally.


PETER GRECO: Now, the THC which is the component that makes people high, that’s not part of cannabis oil. Is that right?


KELLY VINCENT: That’s right, and that’s why it’s very important to separate it out from marijuana that is for recreational use. And I also think it is important to remember, Peter, that many of the people who turn to medical cannabis, whether they are facing terminal illness, or a severe illness that hasn’t been alleviated by other drugs, do not doing so easily, and they are not doing so out of a sense of fun, or just to see how it goes. They are doing so out of pure desperation because no other drugs have given that relief which medical cannabis has provided for them. So, of course, I’m not a parent, but if I had a child who was experiencing daily seizures, or inconstant, chronic pain, of course you would turn to anything that might alleviate that. And I think it’s important to remember too, that I don’t think anyone is saying that the police are doing the wrong thing when it comes to enforcing the law here in South Australia around medical cannabis as it stands, we are simply saying that those laws need to change. And it’s good to note that the Federal government has actually taken moves already to decriminalise medical cannabis however, they have left it up to the states to decide individually how that will operate in each state – as in what forms of cannabis are legal, how much a person can possess, and so on. And that’s where we still a bit murky in terms of the law.


PETER GRECO: I was going to ask you about that. Because to me that seems to be one of the issues. The different states have different rules, and that’s probably not an ideal situation.


KELLY VINCENT: Absolutely not. Particularly when you are having multiple seizures a day, or your inconstant, chronic pain, or experiencing other symptoms from other treatment, it’s not obviously on the top of your lists to spend time researching and sourcing medical cannabis or any other helpful substances, so we really need to make this as safe and accessible as possible for those for whom it can help. Obviously it won’t be an option for everyone; it may not work for everyone, and no one is going to be forced to take medical cannabis, but for those for whom it is working, and providing that relief, how can we as members of Parliament, and, I think, even more so, as human beings, continued to deny that relief.


PETER GRECO: Also, I guess people taking it, or people using it on their children, or want to have some sort of knowledge that what they’re taking is safe in terms of the – the product has been regulated, or there is some sort of quality control over it as well?


KELLY VINCENT: Absolutely, yes, more legal moves for the decriminalisation of this, and an amnesty around medical cannabis would make it easier to know exactly where it was coming from, so people don’t have to turn to, you know, strangers, and the Internet to source medical cannabis, either for themselves or their children. Now, I’m not saying that suppliers here in South Australia. I doing the wrong thing. I’ve met with one in particular, and I believe she does a great job of providing safe medical cannabis oil, however, you’re quite right in that if it was legal, people could talk about this a lot more openly, and potentially stay safer as a result.


PETER GRECO: Okay. So, are you looking to lobby your fellow politicians at North Terrace?


KELLY VINCENT: Certainly Dignity Party will continue to lobby on this. My parliamentary colleagues Tammy Franks has a motion before the Parliament on this, calling for an amnesty on medical cannabis, and we will certainly support that, because, as I have said, we have had people come to us saying that this is the only thing providing relief to them and their families, and I think we have a duty, as the Dignity Party, to allow that dignity, so that people can get on with their lives. So will support that and continue to lobby. And unfortunately I think this is one of the issues where the views – or the so-called “morals” of certain members of Parliament continue to lag behind the general view of the community. I mean, we had maybe 100, 150 at a guess turn out the rally on a Saturday afternoon. Now rallies are not most people’s idea of fun – it is certainly mine, but I am a rare breed! So, to have, you know, over 100 people give up their Saturday afternoon to rally on this issue. I think shows how much support there is in the community. And how much desperation there is in the community for change on this issue, and it’s time members of Parliament all came together and caught up on this very important issue so that we can actually do our job, which is of course to provide everyone in the South Australian community with the best possible life.


PETER GRECO: Now speaking of providing people the best possible life, you were busy again during the week being at an accessible toilet launch.


KELLY VINCENT: That’s right, yes. The Adelaide is City Council together with the Central Market have built and opened a new accessible toilet in the Central Market, just by Lucia’s café. It includes a step free shower and adult change table, as well is handrails and the other usual features. Unfortunately, there is no hoist in there, but certainly Dignity Party is chasing that up to ensure that there may be someone moves to get a hoist in future. Because all very well and good to have the adult change table, but if you are an adult who needs to be changed, chances are you will need to be lifted to get onto the change table as well. So, still some great improvements could be made, but it’s a big step forward. Given that the Adelaide Central Market is 148 years old. This is a big step in modernising the Central Market to be more accessible to everyone. It also has a parent’s room adjacent to the accessible toilet, so that parents who need to change their babies or children can do that as well without taking the toilet away from someone who might need to use it. So it is a really great step in making the markets and Adelaide more accessible, not only of course to people with disabilities, but people who might have chronic illness, older people, parents. It really is about opening up the state and our businesses to everyone so that we can enjoy the same experiences as everyone else, and spend our money and enjoy our economic power as part of the community. We’ve got a way to go in terms of getting a full Changing Places in South Australia, which includes the hoist, and the adult change table, and Dignity Party has been lobbying and working with the Adelaide City Council in particular on this for a long time. And the Council is in the process of identifying some possible locations for our Changing Place. Any feedback on that would be greatly appreciated because we need to get this. There are many people right now who are either not going up very much at all because of the limited facilities, or they are being forced to change on the floor of a public toilet, which I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone comes with some pretty obvious safety and dignity related concerns. So Changing Places would make a big difference to the lives of all South Australians, and enable many more people to get out and enjoy our community. And just a contrast, I understand is the state of Victoria has about seven Changing Places already, and the Victorian government has just invested around $1 million in getting some more around the state of Victoria. So South Australia has long way to go catching up, and that’s a great shame, but Dignity Party will continue to lobby on this, not only for those people who have disabilities or health conditions at the moment, and need these facilities now, but for those who will need them in future as our population ages, as well. So, long story short, it’s a good step forward from the Adelaide City Council and the Central Market, and Dignity Party congratulate them on that. I was very happy to officially open the toilet. I think I might be the first Member of Parliament to be asked to open a toilet. It’s a unique privilege and one that I’ve enjoyed.


PETER GRECO: At least it was accessible, so that’s good your credibility! Kelly, will have to leave it there. We will keep in touch throughout the year. Thanks for speaking to us.


KELLY VINCENT: Thanks so much, Peter.