Medicinal cannabis is new, exciting and contentious. Since its legalisation in 2016 it has been heralded as a major export industry for Australia, a potential new treatment for dozens of conditions and a possible solution to the opioid epidemic. But while millions of Australian research dollars are being spent on clinical trials, doctors are still hesitant to support it, and fewer than 2,000 people have so far been prescribed it. Governments continue to face criticism for what some describe as a cruel approach to compassionate access.
With expert contributions from science, industry, government, law and patient advocates, we address the challenges faced by patients, researchers, doctors and regulators in Australia and around the world.
This event was held on Monday 29 October at the University of Sydney.
Dr Mark Ware is an associate professor of family medicine and anaesthesia at McGill University. Over a period of 20 years he has established himself as a dedicated researcher and thought leader in advancing the medical community’s understanding of cannabis and cannabinoids. His research has focused on the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids in pain and symptom management, and dates back well before the days of commercial cannabis production. Dr Ware served for ten years as Executive Director of the non-profit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids (CCIC), and is also a longstanding Board Member of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. In 2016, Dr Ware served as vice-chair of the Government of Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.
Dr Teresa Nicoletti is a Partner in Mills Oakley’s Intellectual Property team, based in Sydney. She is both a lawyer and scientist with more than 20 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries in Australia and New Zealand. She has also worked across a number of other product-related industries, including foods, cosmetics, veterinary pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and industrial chemicals. Teresa is an experienced negotiator and regularly liaises with regulatory authorities and government administrators on behalf of her clients, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Branch, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and state food and health authorities. She is well known for her ongoing work in the field of medicinal cannabis. Teresa is actively involved in industry, and is regularly invited to speak at industry conferences and deliver seminars and workshops. She has been listed as a Band 1 Lawyer for Life Sciences in Chambers Asia Pacific 2018.
Adjunct Professor John Skerritt contributes to the stewardship of Australia's health system, as well as having direct responsibility for both the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Office of Drug Control. He is a former Deputy Secretary in the Victorian Government and has extensive experience in medical, agricultural and environmental policy, as well as regulation, research management, technology application and commercialisation. Prior to this role, John was the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (a Commonwealth statutory authority), a Ministerial appointee on the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee, and Chair of the Board of the International Water Management Institute. John is Vice-Chair of the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities and the Scientific Advisory Council of the Centre for Innovation in Regulatory Science; an Adjunct Professor of the Universities of Queensland and Canberra; has a PhD from the University of Sydney; and is a graduate of the Senior Executive Programs of London Business School and of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Business School in Switzerland. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration of Australia (Vic).
Professor Iain McGregor is the Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative and an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow. He is responsible for academic and organisational leadership, strategic direction, governance and reporting, and the development and achievement of the preclinical and clinical research strategies. Iain oversees a team of more than 25 staff and students, including the Associate Directors, and reports to the Lambert Initiative Internal Management Group (IMG). Renowned in the field of medicinal cannabis research, Iain leads strategic relations, advocacy and education. In addition to medicinal cannabis, Iain’s research spans medicinal chemistry, the use of cellular assays and preclinical animal models of disease, and clinical trials in humans. Iain is a well-known figure in the field of medicinal cannabis research and has published more than 50 papers on cannabinoids. He has more than 220 career publications and an h-index of 62.
Lucy Haslam is a retired nurse, who previously founded a fully accredited in-home nursing care company which grew from a one-person operation to a staff of over 50 nursing and disability support workers and included a respite centre and administration centre caring for over 200 patients. As of August 2013, Lucy has spearheaded the movement to re-introduce medicinal cannabis into Australia. Lucy witnessed the dramatic relief her son Dan (suffering stage 4 bowel cancer) gained from using medicinal cannabis, and Dan championed the cause alongside his mother. Together they started a campaign which ultimately changed Australian laws. Lucy says that she used to feel proud of that achievement but now feels that Australian legislators have produced a system set up to fail patients like Dan. On Dan’s deathbed, she promised to make access to cannabis better for Australians. In November 2014 Lucy organised the Inaugural UIC Medicinal Cannabis Symposium in Tamworth with subsequent events in Sydney in 2016, Melbourne in 2017, and a planned event for Tweed Heads in early 2019. Lucy is an Advisory Board Member for both the NSW Government Medicinal Cannabis Centre for Research & Innovation and the ACT Medicinal Council. She is a Committee Member for the NSW Compassionate Access Scheme. Lucy is the Founder of the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Alliance; a group of likeminded medicinal cannabis supporters determined to improve patient access which includes medical professional, legal professionals, researchers, and academics. Lucy was nominated for the Australian of the Year Award 2016 (State Finalist), and was named in the Top 100 Women of Influence Awards 2016.
Sascha Callaghan has published widely in the area of health care decision-making, mental health and cognitive impairment. She also has a research interest in law and technology is currently a lead researcher in the Sydney Neuroscience Network on intersections between neuroscience, law and ethics.