Written by Katy Rohl
After the original rejection of the medical marijuana trials in July of this year, Tasmanian politicians have now changed their stance on the subject and consideration of a medical marijuana trial is in the works. Many things must be considered by the government before legalization will either be accepted or rejected including the effect that the growth of the marijuana plant will have on Tasmania’s already existing poppy growing industry.
Within Tasmania there are 1000 farmers contracted to grow the poppies that are used in the production of the pain relieving drugs, morphine, codeine and thebaine. According to the Tasmanian government about half of the worlds supply of medicinal opiate is harvested in Tasmania. When the proposal was originally propositioned to agriculture minister Jeremy Rockliff he rejected it on the grounds of the potential damage that it would cause to the already successful Poppy growing industry.
However, his father Rick Rockliff who works as a poppy grower and field operations manager chose an apposing view to his son. “I personally don’t see it as a threat at all” voiced Rick Rockliff, “We’ve got strict regulatory requirements around our poppy industry and I guess it would be easy to slip something in to place alongside that.” The Tasmanian government shares a similar view to Rick Rockliff’s stance and reported that years of experience in the production of opiates has enabled them to perfect their security measures in ensuring that no raw materials have been released into the illicit drug market. With this assurance, the current interest in the legalization of medical marijuana could potentially be achieved without drawbacks within Tasmania.
With the effect that the production of medical marijuana will have on the poppy production industry put aside, the question of what effect medical marijuana will have on the state is of upmost importance. A report conducted by the drug strategy branch within the Australian Governments Department of Health and Aging suggests that the strength of the marijuana is dependent on how the plant is grown, prepared and eventually used. This notion implies that regulations would be able to be placed by the Tasmanian government on the strength of the drug administered to patients. However, the same report also describes that most users of other illicit drugs were originally users of marijuana.
While this development is just the beginning of the prospect of growing medicinal marijuana in Tasmania, legalizing the pain-relieving drug is still in the very early stages. Tasmanian government now needs to begin not only investigating the economical aspect but also the effect that implementing another crop could have on the already established stability of the poppy crops. The ultimate question that has fallen in to the laps of both the Tasmanian government and the public alike is whether introducing medical marijuana to their state is the right decision.