By NADIA DIMATTINA
The potential reintroduction of medical cannabis in Australia is creating debate about the need for trials, which are set to start next year.
The Victorian Government in partnership with the New South Wales and Queensland governments have committed to clinical trials for medical cannabis in 2016.
Australian medical experts say there is a need for more research into various aspects of medical cannabis in order to legalise a drug that is safe to use for patients.
In particular, medical experts believe it will not be possible to determine a safe dosage of cannabis for patients based on only one clinical trial.
Health expert Emeritus Professor David Penington, who has advocated sensible drug policy in a number of major public health roles, said there needed to be more scientific research into the elements of cannabis that are not dangerous.
“It is perfectly safe from the point of view of serious mental illness to take marijuana as long as it contains cannabidiol, which protects the brain,” Prof Penington said.
Non-profit lobby group for the reintroduction of medical cannabis United in Compassion co-founder and director Troy Langman said there should be more research into how cannabis affected particular parts of the human body.
"Focus on the endocannabinoid system [receptors in the brain] because that's fundamental to the reason why cannabis works for so many different conditions," Mr Langman said.
The use of medicinal cannabis in Australia is already showing positive results for many patients, bringing calls that it should be legalised.
Anecdotal reports have highlighted the benefits of medicinal cannabis use, which include pain relief, improvement in well-being, relief from nausea and prevention of epileptic seizures.
Multiple sclerosis patient Attie said using medicinal cannabis had improved her overall wellbeing.
“I couldn't walk further than a few steps without help; within about three days I was walking straighter," she said.
"It boosts my immune system, so the pain goes away. It's a natural chemical that your immune system normally makes.”
However, not all experts believe that drug trials are needed.
Griffith University neurology Professor Roy Beran said medical cannabis had been around for many years and the trials were unnecessary.
“We don't have to do studies to show aspirin works. Why? Because it has been around so long," he said.
"Marijuana has been around a lot longer than aspirin and we are still talking about doing trials which means that the benefits are not as great.”
In preparation for the clinical trials next year, the Victorian Government will collaborate with other states in the hope of overcoming any issues in the medical cannabis debate.
Marijuana, until then legal in Victoria, was restricted to medical and scientific use in 1925 when the state signed the 1925 Geneva Convention on Narcotics Control, and then banned outright in 1928.