The Federal Government has moved to legalise medical marijuana, with the onus now on the state governments to follow suit.
The Federal Government has moved to legalise medical marijuana, with the onus now on the state governments to follow suit. Cathy Adams

Coffs touted as medical marijuana trials begin in NSW

CANCER patients across New South Wales can now apply to take part in Australia's first medical marijuana trials.

The NSW Government has opened 80 slots for patients affected by chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting to take part in the experiment, with scope to expand the trials to a further 250 patients across the state.

Sydney-based cancer treatment centre Chris O'Brien Lifehouse will run the trial with the University of Sydney, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and other cancer centres.

A government spokeswoman said Coffs Harbour was a site that could take patients over the next year.

Medical oncologist Associate Professor Peter Grimison, who will lead the research, published an article at on Monday explaining the jury was still out on marijuana-based medicines' effectiveness to treat debilitating illnesses.

"We can't predict the outcome. The trials could show a benefit of medicinal cannabis, but they could also show that medicinal cannabis doesn't work or has overwhelming side effects,” he said.

"We are hopeful that, at the very least, NSW patients will be given a clear, scientific basis upon which to make important decisions about their treatment in the future.”

Medical Research Minister Pru Goward said the trial was the biggest and most definitive of its type ever conducted worldwide.

"The trial will play a critical role in developing a better understanding of how cannabis products may provide relief for cancer patients,” she said. 

"NSW is leading the way in high-quality research into the use of medicinal cannabis products, with this trial part of the NSW Government's $21 million commitment to support medicinal cannabis clinical trials and reforms.

"The trial will be using an oral, plant-derived, pharmaceutical-grade capsule - the first of its kind in the world - containing equal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, developed and supplied by Canadian company Tilray,” Ms Goward said.

Professor Grimison said cancer patients currently risked prosecution in their attempts to stop chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea.

"Many of my patients do not use illegal cannabis preparations because they are concerned about breaking the law,” he said.

"But if we were to pursue broad legalisation, as opposed to a medical pathway based on scientific evidence, we would miss the opportunity to create a safe, secure supply of cannabis medicines.”