The Minister for Primary Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, has been exposed as misleading the public over extent of poppy industry concerns about a medicinal cannabis trial and potential industry in Tasmania, Greens Health spokesperson, Cassy O’Connor MP, said today.
“When Mr Rockliff came out on 3rd of July this year in support of the Health Minister’s rejection of a medicinal cannabis trial in Tasmania, he cited concerns expressed by the poppy industry as a reason for the trial’s rejection,” Ms O’Connor said.
“We now know, as a result of Right to Information requests of three government agencies, that Mr Rockliff was misrepresenting the industry and using a fallacious argument to support the Health Minister’s unpopular and poorly argued rejection of a medical cannabis trial in Tasmania.”
“Since then, a number of poppy industry leaders – including Mr Rockliff’s own father – have stated that they can see no conflict between the existing world class Tasmanian poppy industry and medicinal cannabis in Tasmania, and indeed that there is enormous potential for Tasmania to establish a medicinal cannabis industry building on that strong reputation.”
“The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association has expressed a similar view. They can see no issue for the established poppy industry in Tasmania but do see the potential medicinal cannabis has as a regulated crop for Tasmanian farmers.”
“Also since then, a number of Councils including Huon Valley, Derwent Valley, Dorset and Northern Midlands, have come out in support of medicinal cannabis and urged the Health Minister to reconsider his position.”
“And just last week, the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation (ANMF) have expressed qualified support for medicinal cannabis to treat chronic conditions for which conventional medicines are ineffective.”
“The Health Minister revealed in Parliament yesterday that he rejected a trial at UTAS after a single preliminary meeting with Tas Health Cannabinoids Pty Ltd and former federal Liberal MP, Dr Mal Washer.”
“He didn’t suggest they go away and come back with a more detailed proposal and clearly, his mind was closed from the outset.”
“As Health Minister, Mr Ferguson needs to put, as a priority, the interests of those Tasmanian families who know that medicinal cannabis is highly effective in treating seizures and the wasting effects of chemotherapy treatment.”
“Arguments about ‘safety and security’ can be resolved by an enabling Minister, and the argument about the poppy industry’s concerns are patently misleading.”
Ms O’Connor also raised concerns over the Primary Industries Minister potentially having a conflict of interest in the matter.
“Mr Rockliff is in an awkward position as his Disclosure of Interests form makes it clear he is a shareholder in, and derives income from, a company operating in the poppy industry in Tasmania. At the same time he is publicly stating, as a government minister, that he believes the establishment of medicinal cannabis would somehow impact on the poppy industry.”
“If Mr Rockliff believed, and made public statements, that medicinal cannabis is a threat to an industry from which he derives an income, he is potentially conflicted and at the very least should have informed the public at the time that he is a financial beneficiary of Tasmania’s poppy industry.”
“The Hodgman Government needs to seriously and urgently reconsider its position on this important public health issue,” Ms O’Connor said.