Document Type


Publication details

Irvine, G 2011, 'Legalisation of medicinal cannabis in New South Wales', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright G Irvine 2011.


Ever since cannabis pharmaceuticals were removed from official pharmacopeias in the Western world in the mid-twentieth century there have been ongoing campaigns to re-legalise medicinal cannabis. This political and social struggle for legalisation tends to be cyclical, with its proponents and detractors fluctuating between characterising its use as a form of deviance through to viewing it as a legitimate response to serious medical conditions.

This thesis poses the research question, ‘Is there a case for reform of the law to allow for the use of cannabis for medicinal purpose in New South Wales?’

The thesis is written for the thousands of seriously ill people who could benefit greatly from medicinal cannabis if it were legal and available. It addresses the what, who, how and why of the topic, only omitting ‘when’ which is a function of political timing beyond the scope of this study. Throughout it utilises forms of risk/benefit analysis, mindful of the potential hazards of the drug while being cognisant of its unique properties. It is designed to function as an evidentiary base for use by health care advocates, activists and reformist politicians seeking to raise the issue of medicinal cannabis with a view to initiating legislation, initially in the state of New South Wales and subsequently in all Australian states and territories.

Adopting a multi-disciplinary triangulated methodology, the thesis sets out to assess the evidence for medicinal cannabis legalisation. This includes a narrative of my own experiences with Parkinsons disease, the jurisprudential and criminological issues raised, whether there is sufficient evidence of the efficacy of medicinal cannabis to warrant its legalisation and whether there is a large enough constituency of potential medicinal cannabis users to render legalisation politically feasible.

After examining the history of medicinal cannabis use both overseas and in Australia, the study examines overseas and Australian legislation and case law, dissects three case studies explaining some pitfalls of drug research, a legal defence for medicinal cannabis arrestees and an ethical and safer source of medicinal cannabis. The remaining chapters draw out the implications of the data for the preparation of proposed New South Wales’ legislation.

Included in

Law Commons