Kim Hames said he had written to Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton in support of a trial initiated or supported by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

In a massive turnabout, Health Minister Kim Hames says he is supportive of a move to legalise medicinal marijuana.

It comes after a rally on Sunday pushing for medicinal cannabis legislation and the Uniting Church on Monday calling on the Barnett government to introduce it for medicinal purposes.

Dr Hames told Fairfax Media he had written to Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton in support of a trial initiated or supported by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Only two months ago, when WA Labor flagged introducing medicinal cannabis legislation, Dr Hames said legalising it would send the wrong message to the community.

“Currently, differing state and territory positions on therapeutic goods laws and obligations to international conventions make this a complex issue,” Dr Hames said.

“I’m very supportive of more research into these potential medicines but we need a national approach to move the barriers, and I have written to Federal Minister for Health Peter DuttonĀ in support of a trial initiated or supported by the TGA.”

Dr Hames admitted there was research supporting the effects of medicinal marijuana on certain conditions.

“It’s my understanding that there is evidence supporting the benefits of cannabis extracts in the treatment of a range of conditions but the evidence still needs to be of sufficient scientific quality to definitively answer questions about efficacy and safety,” he said.

“I’m aware that there are already acknowledged pharmaceutical versions of cannabis derivatives, including an oral spray form that could offer medical benefits without the risks of smoking cannabis.”

Labor leader Mark McGowan said the public expected a more mature debate from their health minister on the issue.

“So far, Dr Hames’ response to WA Labor’s proposal has been to spread misinformation and scaremongering within the community,” he said.

“Dr Hames claimed that moves to prescribe medicinal cannabis under strict conditions to those suffering terminal illness or chronic pain showed we were ‘soft on drugs’.

“We supportĀ the use of pharmaceutical or medicinal cannabis prescribed by doctors in tablet or spray form for the relief of pain.

“Under our proposal, only medical practitioners would be able to issue prescriptions for tablets or sprays in the same way as other legal medications are dispensed.

“As health minister, Dr Hames has a responsibility to examine ways to help those who are terminally ill or in chronic pain and should stop using this issue to score cheap political points.”

Uniting Church general secretary Rosemary Hudson Miller said the group supported legalising cannabis for medicinal use, as long as it was prescribed by doctors under direct supervision.

“More than 20 American states, as well as many countries, including Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and Switzerland, allow the medicinal use of cannabis,” she said.

“This was an emotional conversation, as some members of the meeting shared their personal experiences of the inadequacy of the current practice of using morphine for pain management, and the side effects of nausea and vomiting, for sufferers of chronic and terminal pain.

“The current laws mean that family and friends choose, at some personal risk, to provide cannabis to relive symptoms and pain rather than watch the agony of suffering.”

Henry Sapiecha

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