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United in Compassion

Work & Campaigns

United in Compassion’s Work & The Thinking Behind It

Policies & Position

In keeping with our Mission Statement – to secure ‘patient access to Full Spectrum herbal medicinal Cannabis (MC) extracts and dried herb Cannabis in a manner which is safe, effective, affordable, equitable and favourable for patients‘ – UIC has laid out a number of policies and positions, both in a dedicated web page and in its Submission to the 2018/19 Review of the 2016 Amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act. Both can be read here.

Work Programme

To help accomplish this Mission and for the sake of clarity and transparency we’ve also developed a broad ‘work programme’ or ‘action plan’ codified, in general terms, within the below diagram.

Taking its cue from both our Mission Statement and policy positions, this ‘programme’ sets out UIC’s operational priorities for the future and identifies the principal areas of activity we feel to be the most critical to advancing our Mission.

Though (we hope) self-explanatory, a further, more detailed walk-through of the model’s various components then follows.

All projects, initiatives and activities which UIC undertakes or supports can be situated within this diagrammatic, which therefore serves to provide a rationale for our work. Such projects are listed individually on a further page on this website called Current Projects, each such exercise then fully explained on its own dedicated page.

Why This Page?

Our objective, in posting this content (including our policy and positions) is to present, as clearly and concisely as possible what UIC stands for (and does not) and what we believe (and do not).

We’ve always been forthright in our view that we cannot accomplish our Mission alone – that all stakeholders within the cannabis debate should, wherever possible, collaborate and work co-operatively to help effect this much-needed change.

Whilst it would be unreasonable to expect those concerned to agree with us 100% of the time about everything, we do expect consensus that making immediate and genuine legal access to this medicine for all those who need it a common priority for everyone.

For these reasons we’re explaining our work and priorities fully – so that individuals and organisations – private, public and third sectors – can determine how (or indeed whether) to support UIC.

The above diagram then can be thought of a lens through which our work might be viewed with increasingly fine granularity shown at each level.

Level One: Objectives

Our Mission Statement – is the main ‘filter’ of every piece of work UIC undertakes and informs all subsequent levels.  All project ideas are appraised in terms of this Mission: will such an activity help meet our objectives and if yes, how would it be likely to do so?

It’s a principle in fact we think could – and perhaps should – be applied to other organisations operating in the medicinal cannabis space too – with two questions probably worth posing:

  1. does that organisation support a Mission such as UIC’s to begin with and
  2. does its behaviour help bring this objective about?

(If the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’ then we feel it’s reasonable then to ask whether such organisations can honestly claim to have the best interests of patients in mind. We certainly think it’s something worth thinking about…..).

Logically though, when considering our Mission, it makes sense to first ascertain what the position is currently and what can be done to improve it.

Level Two: Rationale

This brings us to Level Two – UIC’s ‘Policy’ – composed of a Summary of our Submission to the 2018/19 Statutory Review into the 2016 Amendments Narcotic Drugs Act and a number of modest Recommendations. The Submission especially sets out in considerable detail why UIC feels the current legislation and regulation around medicinal cannabis in Australia will at best forever be highly dysfunctional and at worst continue to fail hundreds of thousands of patients.

 

Level Three: Strategy

Having set out our Positions, including those on the self-supply of MC – called ‘Let’s Talk About Home Grow‘ – we now move to Level Three, which deals with a Strategy for how to bring about the objectives identified in the previous Levels.

Our ‘Strategy’ has four basic components – or ‘Pillars’ as we’ve chosen to call them – as follows:

Pillar One: Information

Pillar Two: Education

Pillar Three: Lobbying

Pillar Four: Judicial

We believe all four of these elements are critical, since, unlike some, UIC is not of the opinion that simply ‘bringing the doctors on board’ is all that’s required to ‘fix’ Australia’s current MC ‘system’ (though obviously this is of vital importance).

Instead, we feel the battle to accomplish our Mission is being fought on a number of fronts – each (and all) of which need to be addressed concurrently.

These ‘Four Pillars’ therefore represent the means by which this can best be effected and underpin all that we do.

(At Level Six – ‘Audience’ – we also explore specific ‘Target Groups’ with the implication that different types of information, education etc. should, where appropriate, be created and tailored to each group).

Information

Although clearly some overlap will exist between ‘Information’ and ‘Education’ (reflected in the subsequent Level) the former should be taken to mean everything UIC produces in the way of ‘content’ (digital and printed) and all other communications as well as through media such as film, radio & TV appearances etc. This website and our regular updates are also examples of this. ‘Target Groups’ are also of significance here as we’ve mentioned – information produced should be specific and pertinent to each individual group.

Education

This on the other hand – our second ‘Pillar’ – refers specifically to materials and/or documentation and/or events designed to impart knowledge of practical benefit to those involved with or interested in the field of medicinal cannabis. In practice of course, this means in effect and for the most part teaching healthcare professionals and assisting them in working with or prescribing cannabis or cannabis products: UIC’s Australian Medicinal Cannabis Course is an excellent example of this.

But we also wish to educate other ‘target groups’ too, such as politicians, journalists, policy-writers and the public at large, many of whom, in our experience, show an underwhelming appreciation of the facts and reality of this medicine.

Huge work remains in these areas which is why education remains one of our principal foci.

Lobbying

UIC believes genuine change and improvement to Australia’s current MC system can only properly be realised at the Political level – and that the political will must exist if this is ever going to happen. Such change might occur at the Federal or S&T levels or both, and we moreover feel the issue of MC should and must transcend Party lines.

For this reason, continued engagement with politicians of all parties and at all levels of Government is another of the cornerstones of our strategy – applying pressure when needed, encouragement and support where warranted and always from ‘patient first’ perspective, seeing all other considerations as secondary.

 

We are fortunate in that our Founder and Executive Director Lucy Haslam is generally recognised as being among the most effective voices within the medicinal cannabis space, respected by and able to gain the attention of senior figures across the political spectrum.

This is an area of strength upon which UIC will continue to build.

Judicial

UIC acknowledges – indeed celebrates – the fact that access to medicinal cannabis is a global phenomenon and one that has been entirely driven and created by patient demand. This has been accomplished through strategies not only comprising those mentioned above, but often by pursuing the matter at Law.

Whilst we recognise that unlike, say Canada, where numerous breakthroughs were accomplished through that country’s Courts system, Australia does not have a Bill of Rights and is therefore the weaker where Human Rights generally are concerned. This certainly makes a legal approach more challenging but does not preclude it entirely.

We feel strongly in many cases grounds may exist for personal-use cannabis charges and prosecutions (and even others) to be defended on grounds of medical necessity. Were these argued successfully in the higher Courts, precedent would quickly be set, creating a de facto change in the law. Whilst not straightforward, and with complexities arising in terms of individual S&T legislation, nevertheless an exemplar already exists (albeit in a lower Court) with Crown v Katelaris (2018). In this case an de-registered doctor was fully acquitted of serious drug charges after proving to a jury his products and treatments saved lives, demonstrating such a defence to be tenable and realistic option – at least under some circumstances.

We also feel the roadside drug testing for the mere presence of TCH rather than driver impairment – itself a means of maintaining the ‘drug war’ rather than serving the interests of road safety – to be particularly abhorrent especially if applied to those using cannabis legally under prescription.  This situation we believe to be totally unacceptable and thus urgently in need of legal challenge. This becomes doubly true in light of two important developments in May 2019 – the discovery that it’s possible to test positive for THC due to passive smoking and the fact that the testing kits show a huge 20% margin of error.

With the above in mind therefore, UIC will seek counsel and explore ways of supporting such legal challenges through the Court system and will produce a separate paper/action plan in due course.

Having explained our overall strategy, the next Level (Four) shows the tactics we may use to deliver them – showing obvious overlaps where occurring.

Through events (such as UIC’s annual Symposium and others we may ourselves produce or support where created by third parties), through content production (such as the document you’re now reading, or our ‘Patient Handbook’ which can be downloaded here) and through ‘other activities’ (like lobbying and working with lawyers) UIC thus views all projects and activities as the means by which it can implement strategy.

Level Four: Tactics

In order to undertake these however, effective communication is paramount – through digital and traditional media as well as (wherever possible), direct interaction with our supporters and others we need to engage with. This represents Level Four in the diagram.

In order to implement this UIC is working with a small number of professional individuals and organisations to optimise its communications and internal processes, including an expansion and enhancement of our digital footprint.. 

 

These we see not as a single, fixed term project (or even a series of them) but as an ongoing exercise subject to continuous improvement and development

Since neither our strategy nor the tactics required to deliver it can themselves function without excellent and powerful communications, this ‘Level’ is, we believe, especially crucial.

Level Five: Delivery

As can be seen from the diagram, Levels 3-5 are circumscribed by ‘Key Messages’ – some of which were initially laid out by Lucy Haslam during a Presentation given at CannaTech Sydney in November 2018. The PowerPoint (which also appears on this site’s ‘Policy’ page) can be viewed here.

Whilst such messages might change and adapt over time and according to shifts in environment, a brisk review of some of those messages is worthwhile:

 

  • All patients deserve the right to use or try cannabis, not just as a last resort;
  • GPs should be free to prescribe it without any bureaucratic interference at any level;
  • Cannabis is great for a whole range of conditions;
  • It’s imperative to stop punishing people for using the plant medicinally;
  • THC isn’t the demon it’s made out to be;
  • There IS enough evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis.

Level Six: Audience

Turning again to the same presentation and moving now to Level Six in the diagram – Audience – UIC feels a number of particular ‘target groups’ especially need to be addressed, each requiring its own kind of messaging.

Groups identified include:

Journalists – who need clear, accurate information and education in order to produce factual and insightful stories;

Politicians – who need to know and understand the facts about cannabis and cannabis medicines in order to make policy judgements about them;

 

Doctors and Healthcare Professionals – who need to know how (and when) to work with cannabis and cannabis products and what they can do for their patients;

The General Public – which needs to know the truth and facts about cannabis and cannabis products as well as how and whether such medicines can benefit them directly.

Level Seven: Objectives Met

The six levels together should, and we hope do, provide for a coherent, systematic and consistent approach to our work going going forward, and leading to Level 7 (‘Objectives Met’). This should represent the accomplishment of our Mission – which, whether partial or otherwise – marks a return to the starting point.

The diagram means, in practice that every piece of work, every activity, each undertaking either by UIC itself or those supported by UIC fits into its rationale. 

Current work and / or projects will, as we’ve said, be allocated their own dedicated pages on this website and listed on our ‘Current Projects’ page, this for additional transparency.

As a tiny organisation UIC cannot undertake such an ambitious programme alone. We need (and very much welcome) assistance, collaboration and input from outside organisations: patient groups, advocates, academia, medical professionals and not least Australia’s nascent cannabis Industry.

Everyone, we believe, needs to play a part in working together to secure genuine and immediate access to high-quality cannabis and cannabis products that are legal and affordable to all sick Australian’s in need of them.