A SENIOR lecturer in medical science at Central Queensland University has added his voice to the growing call for the government to consider medical cannabis legislation.
Yesterday public submissions were called on the use of medical cannabis in the ACT community in an inquiry by that state's Legislative Assembly committee.
The Standing Committee on Health, Ageing, Community and Social Services is considering draft legislation and a discussion paper released by Greens minister Shane Rattenbury in July.
The bill would grant severely ill people the right to grow plants for their own treatment.
Dr Andrew Fenning said if medical marijuana was regulated correctly, it should be made available throughout Australia.
"Medical marijuana is just like any other drug," he said.
"Morphine was derived from the opium plant, and there is no reason cannabis can't be used in a similar way.
"With strict controls on how it is grown and prescribed it is a viable alternative."
Dr Fenning said the government needed to look at the model in the United States, where cannabis was commercially grown to reduce the effects of 'getting high' and increase its analgesic properties.
"It's strictly controlled for pharmaceutical use in the US," he said.
"Each plant is tagged and each batch of product can be traced back to that plant.
"The idea is to minimise addiction and psychotropic effects, and utilise the positive properties of cannabis like pain relief."
He said tight control of production could address one big fear surrounding the debate - misuse of the drug for recreational use.
"There are legitimate reasons people want to use cannabis. Not everyone wants to get stoned," he said.
He said the evidence was still controversial because of the lack of trials, but early studies in the US indicated it could significantly assist certain conditions.
"Successful studies show it can stop epileptic seizures, relieve chronic pain and encourage appetite in sufferers of chemotherapy and AIDS."
While marijuana could help a lot of people, he said there was a difference between street and medical marijuana.
"The medical plants have different chemical compounds."