An international advocate for medicinal cannabis use says Australia needs to work harder at changing social attitudes toward its use.
Ana Maria Gazmuri was a Chilean soap opera actress in the 1980s and is now president of the Daya Foundation, a not-for-profit that promotes alternative therapies and medicinal cannabis.
Chile legalised the use of medical marijuana in 2015 and Gazmuri was a prominent advocate for that change.
She’s now touring Australia to speak at events supporting medicinal cannabis and is in Perth where the Daya Foundation has teamed up with medicinal cannabis company Zelda Therapeutics.
Gazmuri told WAtoday although the use of medicinal cannabis was been legalised in WA, there remains a challenge to educate the wider public about its benefits as it becomes a part of society.
“In Chile, educating the community on the benefits of medicinal cannabis has been key to normalising its use and clearing prejudices installed by decades of prohibition,” she said.
“Training doctors and facilitating access to patients is also paramount as this allowed us to develop excellent results, which we could share quickly via testimonies in the media.
“Australia should invest in more doctor training and easier access for patients. We have successfully treated many patients in Chile who have really benefited from these safe, effective and inexpensive medicines
“The acceptance of medicinal cannabis was absolutely driven by social attitude, and now medicine is catching up.”
Zelda Therapeutics and Gazmuri’s Daya Foundation ran an observational autism trial which they claimed had success using medicinal cannabis extracts to treat the core symptoms of autism – clinical trials are expected to commence later this year.
Speaking about the overall medicinal cannabis sector, Gazmuri said patients in Chile are seeing beneficial changes and that when supplies become readily available in Australia the difference will be apparent.
“Already patients are using cannabis in place of more dangerous drugs such as opiates and tranquilizers. This is a win for patients and the country as it is a far safer solution,” she said.
“Medicinal cannabis has had a great impact, especially in paediatric patients with neurological pathologies, such as epilepsy and autism, and in patients with chronic pain.
“We always suggest putting patients in the centre of this process, giving them a voice, making them feel permanently accompanied and respected in their decision to incorporate this therapeutic alternative.”