Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association (AMCA)
Our Strength is in Our Breadth
Business View Oceania interviews Lucy Haslam and Emily Rigby of AMCA, for our focus on Health and Hospitals
Founded in the height of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association (AMCA) is the peak representative body advocating on behalf of the entire Australian medicinal cannabis sector, from patients to industry. Its Board of pioneers, ambassadors, and stakeholders believe that a diverse mix of members with a broad range of skills is essential to supporting committed individuals and organisations to steer the industry in a positive direction.
AMCA’s vision is, “to see Australia leading the world in quality, affordable, and accessible medicinal cannabis.” The association operates via a set of core priorities: Inclusion, Collaboration, Tenacity, Advocacy, Information, and Connection. Membership is aimed at being accessible to all, and starts at Compassionate for patients, unemployed and low-income workers through to a range of higher levels aimed at all levels of industry, with the highest level being Platinum. Members enjoy a number of benefits depending on their membership level, including but not limited to AMCA events and interest groups, affiliation with a nationally recognised industry body, website listings, access to online and face-to-face events, and information, education, and resource distribution.
AMCA’s first major project was to establish the Australian chapter of the International Society of Cannabis Clinicians (ISCC) in 2020, to provide a forum for healthcare professionals and researchers to connect, learn, and share for the betterment of the medicinal cannabis community.
Board Directors Lucy Haslam (Co-founder/Chair) and Emily Rigby (Industry Member) share their valuable insight into the association’s projects, goals, and vision for the future. Ms. Haslam begins, “AMCA was founded in 2020, but our pioneers have been working tirelessly in the Australian medicinal cannabis space for many years. Following the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, those pioneers realised that patients would inevitably struggle to acquire appropriate and affordable access to their medicine, and that it was also going to be difficult for doctors to justify spending the extra time and resources necessary to jump through the hoops to prescribe medicinal cannabis.”
Ms. Rigby continues, “We recognised right from the start that the diversity of our team and our members would be our biggest strength; our motto is ‘our strength is in our breadth’. There were a number of problems early on at prescription, regulatory, industry, and individual levels. There still is a high degree of burden placed on those who seek to cultivate or manufacture cannabis products in our country. And of course, there is always the ongoing stigma surrounding medicinal cannabis. To tackle that challenge, we brought into our group researchers, academics, and industry leaders. Our primary goals are to improve education and access for patients in the short, medium, and long term.” Ms. Haslam adds “We realise that this is a marathon, not a sprint and we are here for the long haul.”
AMCA recognises that one of the biggest challenges for medicinal cannabis patients currently living and working in Australia are the regulations governing driving under influence. In addition to her role at AMCA, Ms. Haslam is an ambassador for the Drive Change campaign. She shares, “There are many patients in our country who have to make an active decision between driving and staying on their medicine. That isn’t much of a choice at all, unfortunately. We have made submissions to both the Western Australia and New South Wales inquiries into traffic regulation amendments surrounding DUIs and have encouraged our members to do the same.” The Drive Change campaign, run by The Cannabis Law Reform Alliance, is committed to the nationwide implementation of uniform drug driving laws that allow drivers with valid doctor’s prescriptions for medicines containing THC to have complete defence against persecution, provided impairment is not established and there is no involvement of dangerous or reckless driving. Campaign lead Adjunct Professor David Heilpern, who is also an AMCA ambassador, says, “The current drug driving regime with relation to cannabis is both nonsensical and discriminatory. It is nonsensical because it is a waste of money and there is no evidence it improves road safety. It is discriminatory in that it targets those using a single, legal medicine only-cannabis. We need to drive change.”
AMCA’s five Board Directors value passion and dedication above all. AMCA’s intent is clear, Ms. Haslam explains. “I don’t think anybody could doubt what our intentions are as an organisation. Each of us feels very passionate for our own individual reasons, but we are all committed to a common goal. Some of us are looking for careers and development opportunities, and others are involved in research and academia, or to represent patients. We decided right from the get-go that we were going to function as a not-for-profit. We’re not interested in attracting a huge membership or charging massive fees. We want to develop a community of people who want to be part of the solution to create a healthy, robust industry and better accessibility for patients-in-need.”
Collaboration has been key to AMCA’s approach. Ms. Rigby says. “We prefer to work with our members and partners to approach government and regulators in a cooperative, rather than combative, way. Most of our members joined AMCA to become involved in the betterment of their industry. When we identify a problem, we tackle it not just through our board, but by reaching out to members who have particular skill sets that they can lean on to help to us solve problems. It is a truly co-operative organisation”.
Moving forward, AMCA plans to continue to advocate on behalf of members for the positive development of Australia’s medicinal cannabis sector. The association will continue to support major projects and initiatives such as the Drive Change campaign and is currently developing a nationwide compassionate access scheme. The SCCAC, founded by AMCA, is also developing an independent education program for healthcare practitioners that has already been accredited by the RACGP (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners).
Ms. Rigby concludes with a note on AMCA’s predictions for future industry trends. “The sector has developed more slowly than originally expected. Breaking down barriers has proved a real challenge, but we have tackled those issues head on as they have risen and are proud of what we have achieved to date. We believe that Australian patients will soon begin to rely less and less on imported medicines as our high-quality local industry matures, and we expect to see more sustainable, responsible, and engaged local businesses in the medicinal cannabis space. We are already seeing export and innovation opportunities open and are incredibly excited for the future of what we believe is a massive opportunity for the Australian economy, as well as a vital resource for our health system.”
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AT A GLANCE
Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association (AMCA)
What: Peak body representing the interests of the Australian medicinal cannabis sector
Where: AMCA is headquartered in Sydney, Australia