Cannabis and Weed Advocates
By BELINDA SCOTT
THEY are supposed to belong to one of rural Australia's most conservative groups but members of the Country Women's Association have surprisingly come out in support of one of the north coast's most infamous illegal exports.
They've thrown their support behind cannabis ? but don't expect them to be adding the weed to their famous scone and pumpkin pie recipes.
They have resolved to pressure the Federal Government to research marijuana's effectiveness to soothe chronic pain.
Local CWA member Ann Rehwinkel says she is all in favour of research trials of any method that reduces people's pain, and that includes the use of marijuana, but only if the the trials are carried out and supervised correctly.
Mrs Rehwinkel, who has been involved in horticulture for many years, said old herbal books recommended the use of marijuana as a medical treatment for pain, including the famous 1800s Culpepper's Herbal.
She said the herb's use for painkilling pre-dated its use as a recreational drug.
The (CWA) national executive has voted to lobby for cannabis to be tested as a treatment for chronic pain and Mrs Rehwinkel stressed that her comments were her personal opinion, not an official CWA view.
Lola Lyon of Woolgoolga, is also a CWA member and her personal views is that there is no need for the marijuana trials.
"I may be a bit old-fashioned, but there are other medications and all sorts of soothing drugs," Mrs Lyon said.
Mrs Rehwinkel and Mrs Lyon represent the two sides of a dis-
cussion which has literally split the traditionally-conservative country women's organisation down the middle.
Judith Richardson of Grafton, the NSW State president of the CWA, said two years ago the same motion was put to NSW CWA members and the vote from more than 600 branches was evenly divided, the first time in CWA history this had happened.
Mrs Richardson said she had used her casting vote to preserve the status quo, so the motion was defeated.
Because of that, at the recent triennial national conference in Darwin, which approved the move to lobby for medical marijuana trials, Mrs Richardson said NSW had abstained from voting, but the other four states represented had all voted in favour.
The motion originated in Tasmania, the home state of incoming national CWA president Leslie Young, a trained nurse who runs a vegetable and livestock farm with her family.
"This is a health issue," Mrs Young said ". . . cannabis is just another drug that can potentially help people with chronic pain. The opiates are all illegal, too, but we make them available for pain relief."
The NSW motion to approve cannabis trials two years ago came from a far North Coast branch and support has come from some very senior members.
"Thirty years ago I would have been horrified at the thought," said Coraki CWA Vic-President Mary Hearne, 77.
"I don't like drugs at all but I think marijuana has great potential for those in severe pain. I have seen it work."
Coraki CWA president Ruth Blanch, 88, also knows people who have used the illegal drug to provide pain relief but said any trial would have to be carefully monitored.
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