A stillness on the ether

A new year, a new decade and a stillness on the ether.

A decade of tumultuous change and personal growth is about to draw to a close.  I am feeling a sense of calm wash over me.  It is surreal and profound.   My soul is finding a new peace and it makes me smile.  Truly smile.

Now is not a time to rush nor pre-empt what the future holds but rather it is a time to let nature takes its course, to stand still and be patient.  It is a beautifully natural course.  Naturally beautiful.

I love retreating to my sanctuary, to immerse myself in the elements.  I love exploring the environment, natural and built.  Just days ago, drifting in my kayak under the Moonta Bay jetty, I simply observed. 

I watched swallows at home in the timbers above me, their quiet voices echoing, their nests precarious.  I was entranced by the movement of the tide as it swirled around the pylons leaving imperfect yet perfect patterns on the surface.

Just below the surface, clinging on for dear life a colony of limpets, their shells glistening, caught my attention.  I can so relate to these tiny marine molluscs at home in these temperate waters.  I looked at the hard shells and thought about my own weathered exterior and the virtual armour I have created over the years to protect the softness beneath.  It is so much more than a veneer; it serves as a shield when my vulnerabilities bubble to the surface.  It has served me well. It will continue to serve me well.

I think about the connection that this tiny creature has with its host, in this case an aged and weathered pylon, a once living tree and I think about my connections.  I think about relationships that ebb and flow and I consider the pace of life and I wish for it to slow – to find that stillness, to be present.   I think about how the softness of the creature rests upon the smoothness of the timber, akin to skin on skin.  The thought brings comfort and peace.  It’s equally maternal and romantic.

I think about the elements that surround me, embody me and support me, support life.

Earth – I adore the connection I make with the earth when I walk upon the sand.  I don’t try to mask my aches and pains; they remind me I am very much alive.

Water – The coolness, the colours of sapphire blue and emerald green.  The shapes that dance in the depths, the creatures that inhabit that mercurial place. Mesmerising.

Fire – Our life-giving Sun at it rises and when it falls beyond the horizon.  Fire in the sky.  Fire in my belly. Fire in my heart.  Each burn brightly.

Air – I breathe deeply, consciously, I fill my lungs with pungent salty air and then I exhale.  Slowly. Deliberately.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  I feel connection.

Space – I truly get a sense of the vastness of our world when I look beyond the terrestrial.  The night sky is my place of solace.  Either in the darkness of a moonless southern sky, where the planets, stars and constellations are beacons to travellers or when a gibbous moon enchants those who gaze upon it is this place, this space that captivates me.

I am ready to dance into a new decade and my dance will commence with a stillness.  I recognise to achieve this stillness I am required to surrender the past.  I have done it before, and I will do it again.  To surrender is to be wise and courageous. 

A stillness on the ether.

Let it be.

Justice for Jenny

On Thursday November 7th, 2019 in the Adelaide District Court (Criminal Jurisdiction), the sentencing of Jennifer Lee Hallam took place at 9.43am before his Honour Judge Soulio.

Jennifer, Jenny to her friends, arrived at Court Room 8 impeccably presented but visibly shaking, with tears welling in her eyes. 

She was greeted, with a warm embrace by an integral member of her legal team, her Solicitor (& Barrister) Jessica Kurtzer.  Barrister Greg Barns, unable to be in court for the culmination of this process, had worked alongside Jessica to ensure the best possible outcome for their client.  The many hours of diligent work and counsel by this exceptional legal team was about to be tested for what, they’d hoped, would be the final time.

This process, the process of justice, had taken its toll. Today Jenny, along with a small gathering of her closest friends and supporters, were about to walk through the heavy wooden doors into a light-filled, almost clinical room, adorned with paintings of former Judges who had presided in that place.

There was quiet chatter amongst the media contingent and gentle touches and caring smiles of assurance in Jenny’s direction. 

Jenny had pleaded guilty (albeit late in the piece) to manufacturing a controlled drug, Cannabis oil, between 1 November 2016 and 5 January 2017, and possessing Cannabis oil for supply to another person on 4 January 2017.

The maximum penalties are a fine of $30,000 or seven-years imprisonment, or both, and $15,000 fine or three years imprisonment, or both, respectively.  Judge Soulio noted that such offending covers a wide range of circumstances.

The full sentencing remarks can be found here:


That said, I encourage and urge respect and caution in sharing the full extract given the very personal information disclosed as part of this process. Jenny’s life is now, for all intents and purposes, an open book. 

There are some chapters that had to be aired to ensure that every mitigating circumstance was disclosed.  That disclosure was traumatic and harrowing for Jenny and I would suggest equally so for her friends and supporters.  This is personal.  Deeply personal.

Judge Soulio said upfront that the genesis of Jenny’s offending was to be found in her experience of chronic pain and subsequent psychological issues, and her reliance on and subsequent addiction to, opioid medication and psychotropic medication.  Jenny is not alone in that regard.

To summarise succinctly Jenny’s lengthy medical history as recited by Judge Soulio, licit opiates and antidepressant medication had been ineffective to treat her chronic pain and had produced wide-ranging side effects. 

Other therapies and prescription medications were described by a treating doctor as “sub-optimally effective, and not without side effects.”

The list reads like a copy the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS).  MIMS is a pharmaceutical prescribing reference guide.  For the record, I’m certain you will not find whole plant Cannabis or Cannabis oil amongst its pages – I’ll happily stand corrected.

Jenny was quite rightly described by a treating doctor as “resilient, resourceful and an independent person.”  The doctor, in a letter tabled as part of many submissions, had also set out a history noting that Jenny had not been satisfied with the limitations of conventional therapy for her afflictions and had sought alternative approaches.

It was during that epic journey that Jenny discovered the benefits of Cannabis and Cannabis oil, which proved to be effective in managing her symptoms.  Jenny had become adept in ‘fine-tuning’ the product she made which gave her the best relief.  In doing so Jenny, Judge Soulio, reflecting the doctor’s viewpoint said, “true to your altruistic personality you saw the potential benefit for others suffering from cancer pain, epilepsy and other medical ailments for which conventional medicine proved wanting.”

Compellingly, since early in 2016, because of Jenny’s own initiative in identifying Cannabis oil as providing therapeutic benefit, Jenny no longer required the use of prescribed opioid analgesics, or antidepressant or anxiolytic medication

Ironically, it was in 2016 when the law shifted in Australia.  Patients in South Australia could legally access Medicinal Cannabis medicines as a result of federal legislative changes which came into effect in November 2016 and the development of a patient access pathway. 

I will say again, as I have many times, the patient access pathways are cumbersome and largely unaffordable.

The same doctor expressed the opinion that “conventional medicine had been less than effective in the management of chronic pain and many other conditions and could no longer claim a monopoly in pain management.” He said, “opioid analgesics use had reached an epidemic and crisis point overseas.”

They have also reached crisis point in Australia.  There are now huge billboards dotted around the nation that point this out.

This is an extract from a piece published in September this year via Medical Xpress.  Medical Xpress is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics.

“It’s depressing at times to see how we, as practitioners, literally messed up our communities,” said Dr. Bastian Seidel, who warned that Australia’s opioid problem was a “national emergency” two years ago when he was president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. “It’s our signature on the scripts.”

He sees Australia moving with wilful ignorance toward a disaster.

“Unfortunately, in Australia, we’ve followed the bad example of the U.S.,” he says. “And now we have the same problem.”

The full piece can be read here: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-09-australia-opioid-crisis.html

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) in a statement released on September 9, 2019 spoke to The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) announcement changes to reduce harm in relation to prescription opioids.

In a statement, the TGA says pharmaceutical opioids are now responsible for far more deaths and poisoning hospitalisations in Australia than illegal opioids such as heroin.

“Every day in Australia, nearly 150 hospitalisations and 14 emergency department admissions involve opioid harm, and three people die from drug-induced deaths involving opioid use,” the statement says.


The changes will be phased in from January 2020. All the changes and the full TGA statement can be found at:  https://www.tga.gov.au/alert/prescription-opioids

It perplexes me that the TGA can tie Medicinal Cannabis up in so much red tape that it is out of reach for most and that the AMA aren’t more supportive of GP education around Medicinal Cannabis and the streamlining of the process of prescribing.  Not to mention updating the curriculum for those currently training to become doctors and allied health professionals.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that “Opioids accounted for just over 3 deaths per day in 2018. The majority of these opioid-induced fatalities were unintentional overdoses in middle aged males involving the use of pharmaceutical opioids, often in the presence of other substances. Opioid related harm, including mortality, is a serious public health issue both in Australia and internationally.”

Age distribution of opioid-induced deaths

“The age distribution of opioid-induced deaths differs considerably from that for all causes. The highest proportion of deaths (30.4%) occurs in those aged between 35-44, while 87.5% of deaths occur between the ages of 25-64. In total 39,221 years of potential life were lost, and on average a person dying from an overdose with opioid involvement died 34.9 years prematurely.”


To bring this point home – not one person has died from Cannabis.  I would suggest it is fair to say that lives have been saved and lives have been and will continue to be prolonged.

Back to Jenny’s story – “new modalities in pain management were urgently required” – treating doctor. 

The judge said time and time again that he regarded such expressions of opinion as ‘personal opinion’ and not necessarily medical guidance.  I however, consider it to be a powerful combination of both.

There is a shift in public opinion regarding Medicinal Cannabis. 

Legislators take heed.

As a result of Jenny’s pursuit of an ‘alternative therapy’ she no longer requires “prescribed medication for pain and negative mood, and that the use of cannabis oil had resulted in the restoration of (her) physical function and had aided in your psychological wellbeing.”

Following delivering his summation of the submissions tabled, Judge Soulio returned to Jenny’s offending.

“There is no suggestion that any recipient of the cannabis material you were producing and supplying suffered any harm. Indeed, as I have said, the only evidence I have is strongly to the contrary.”

“There is no suggestion that any recreational user of cannabis obtained product from you, and no evidence that any product was on-sold by the recipients of your products.”

Jenny produced two products, a coconut-oil-based product and a full extract cannabis-oil product, which she supplied in syringes and capsules. During the raid of her home the police took Jenny’s client lists, which in Judge Soulio’s view, made it clear by the information recorded that the supply was solely for medical purposes.

Judge Soulio then recounted Jenny’s personal circumstances. He regarded Jenny to be a first offender and against the background he turned to the question of sentence.

He noted that “the paramount purpose of the sentencing legislation is the protection of the community” and he took that into account along with legislative provisions in relation to the general principles of sentencing and the individual sentencing factors to be taken into account.

Jenny’s counsel submitted, and the judge accepted, that Jenny recognised the wrongfulness of her conduct by way of her plea of guilty, “which although entered at a late stage, was in circumstances complicated by the scientific evidence relating to the production of cannabis oil, and the issue of whether the cannabis oil you were producing fell within the purview of the Controlled Substances Act.”

Jenny has been offered employment – an adverse outcome, in terms of sentencing, would unequivocally mean that she would not be able to consider that offer further.

Judge Soulio had regard to other cases when considering the sentence he would impose upon Jenny.   The details are included in the transcript.  I believe now that Jenny’s case will now be precedent

“Ms Hallam, in your matter I have come to the view that the appropriate basis upon which to proceed is to require you to enter into a bond, without recording a conviction or passing sentence.

The bond will be in the sum of $1,000 and will be for a duration of two years. The only conditions of the bond are that you are be of good behaviour, and that you are to come up for conviction and sentence if the bond is breached.”

“I want to make it clear that that is not a licence to produce unregulated medical cannabis. I regard yours as an exceptional case, strongly supported by persuasive evidence, as to your personal circumstances, the circumstances in which you came to use cannabis oil for your own purposes, noting as to the fact that by the use of that cannabis oil you have been able to free yourself from an addiction to opioid medication and anti-anxiolytic medication, and as to the fact that your provision of that material to others who suffered a range of conditions was motivated by a genuine compassion to help others, and was not motivated in any way by commercial gain and indeed, as I have observed, at considerable expense to you.”

“I also take into account that in addition to those exceptional circumstances, you have been involved in what was for you a traumatic legal process, which of itself has been obviously a salutary experience for you and indicates to you the seriousness with which such matters are regarded.”

Adjourned 10.45am

My conclusion

Throughout Judge Soulio’s summation (close to an hour of commentary), personal and professional testimony was recounted.  

I sat in the court room transfixed and hung on every word.

Judge Soulio’s ruling today demonstrated deep wisdom, understanding and shrewd perception of the matter before him.  Above all, it revealed compassion and significant promise for the future of drug law reform in South Australia and in other jurisdictions. 

If we are to take seriously the narrative and that has just been aired in the Adelaide District Court, then each politician (and those who aspire to be) and their staffers must read the sentencing remarks. 

Once read, they need to be fully briefed by those in the know. 

To make it simple here is a very short list (noting these people wear many hats):

  • Carol Ireland – CEO and Managing Director of Epilepsy Action Australia.
  • Professor Iain McGregor, Professor of Psychopharmacology & Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney.
  • Greg Barns, Barrister & strong advocate for Drug Law Reform
  • Dr Alex Wodak – President of Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation
  • Associate Professor David Caldicott – Emergency Consultant at the Emergency Department of the Calvary Hospital in Canberra and a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the Australian National University
  • Lucy Haslam – Founder of United in Compassion
  • Prof Simon Eckermann – Health Economist – University of Wollongong
  • Mick Palmer – Retired Australian Federal Police Commissioner
  • The wider constituency.

Then, quite simply, they need to act.

If you don’t have time to review the whole transcript, here are some extracts from the sentencing remarks attributed to Carol Ireland and Professor Iain McGregor.

“Ms Ireland said she had never encouraged anyone to break the law but had not judged those who had done so in desperation for the sake of their loved ones.”

Professor McGregor referred to an authoritative review of the literature by the United States National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine, published in 2017, which concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the use of medicinal cannabis products in treating chronic pain, as an anti-emetic in people undergoing chemotherapy,

Professor McGregor noted that as part of the work of the Lambert Initiative surveys indicated that over 85 per cent of the community in Australia supported the availability of medicinal cannabis products to patients in need.

Another Lambert Initiative study, published in 2018, showed that many families with severely epileptic children treated their children with illicit cannabis products. Parents felt compelled to try illicit products because the prescription medications prescribed by neurologists either did not work or caused intolerable side effects, and because official government schemes to allow access to cannabis products were too restrictive or offered products that were simply unaffordable.

Professor McGregor said that the inability of the official Therapeutic Goods Administration Scheme to service the majority of patients in Australia, could be attributed to at least four factors, the third of which was that the expensive nature of the products meant that a chronic pain patient would need to spend $20,000 per year for official products, and the family of an epileptic child more than $50,000 per year. He said that patients can expend a great deal of effort going through the process of obtaining official access to medicinal cannabis products, only to find the products are unaffordable.

Professor McGregor concluded that whilst it is clear that you were breaking the law, it is also clear, in his opinion, that there was sufficient evidence, having regard to the effectiveness of cannabis oil on the various conditions that were you helping treat, that your (Jenny’s) conduct was understandable. He said while it is never preferable for homemade artisanal oils lacking proper quality control to be used as medicines, his research had shown time and time again that desperate patients have little choice. Moreover, many of those patients achieved significant and sometimes miraculous relief from their afflictions.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for Jenny and for her legal counsel.

The outcome of this protracted case is not just vindication for Jenny but significantly, it is a win for the case for compassionate access to cannabis.

I will continue to advocate for a legal framework that not only allows for affordable access to whole plant medicine but also to fast-track the decriminalisation of cannabis.

A Measure of Time

A year.

Twelve months.

365 days.

525,600 minutes.

42,048,000 beats of a heart.

What really is a measure of time?  Why is there so much importance placed on the ritual of closing out a calendar year and commencing a new?  

While it is necessary, in our society, to have the order that a measurement of time brings, be it an hour, a day, or a week; there are days that I ache for simplicity.

The simplicity of rising as the Sun throws light across the land, I do love mornings…and then, after a full day, gently allowing my body and mind to give itself to the night as it envelops me and my surrounds. 

This past year, 42,048,000 beats of my heart, I have felt some of that simplicity in very different settings. 

I recall the captivation of waking to unfamiliar sounds of nature, deep in the Amazon Jungle.  A world away from the familiarity of my sanctuary at Moonta Bay, the warm, damp air filled my lungs. Filtered, golden light streamed through the canopy of gossamer-like netting enshrouding my bed. Magical.

No alarm. No prescribed list of matters to attend to, just the simplicity of being present in a moment in time and woken ever so gently by nature.

I love the simplicity of the change in seasons. One does not need to look at a calendar to know that autumnal stillness is near.  You feel it. The heat of summer leaves the earth in a way that you can almost hear the parched soil sigh.  The coolness of still, clear evenings under a brilliant southern sky are enough to re-calibrate your body and prepare it for shorter days and to feel enlivened as temperatures begin to tumble.

I love the simplicity of not measuring one’s age by time and a date but rather feeling each stage of life, truly feeling it.  Notwithstanding bodily aches and pains, the feeling of love, loss, giving birth, happiness, sorrow, pleasure and pain are by far a better measure of a life being lived than a number, or a date on the Gregorian Calendar.

I love the simplicity of feeling the need to fuel my body, its hunger at times insatiable but mostly understanding the nourishment and nurture it needs to serve its purpose, to allow me to live and to breathe.

I love the simplicity of an impromptu conversation, one that feels like five minutes, but lasts 4,800 beats of a heart (an hour) or more.  I love the simplicity of a kiss that may be fleeting, or one that may linger, each not needing to be measured by time but rather by the intensity and intent with which it is given and received.

I love the simplicity of the lines on a face, the scars on a body, the colour and wisdom in eyes, all perfect ways to measure time. 

This year, as I am compelled to start a new year, I will be thinking about the beats of my heart, the lines on my face and the wisdom in my eyes and I will allow those attributes to be my measure of time.

Step up, not back. Cannabis Law Reform in South Australia

Increasingly, even though we have a legal framework to access Medical Cannabis, there are still significant challenges for health consumers in finding safe and affordable patient access pathways to Medical Cannabis.

Access to Medical Cannabis is a human right, yet in Australia it is still strangled by Commonwealth and State red tape.

Punitive measures rarely work, if at all.

Every day people are being forced to turn to the alternative (black) market to access cannabis for medical purposes. In doing so, they run the risk of being caught breaking the law in growing their own; or sourcing product of an inferior quality.

A Marshall Liberal Government wants to legislate to raise the maximum penalties for Cannabis possession from $500 to $2,000.

It believes that this is “keeping penalties in line with community expectations.”

How wrong can they be?

Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and Barrister, Mick Palmer AO, has stated that there “lots of support across senior ranks of police for Medical Cannabis.

So why is then that so many people are needlessly targeted by police, tying up resources which could be better used in real crime prevention and community engagement?

Personal narratives are powerful instruments of change. Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.

You don’t always have to raise your voice to be heard, it’s often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

So, don’t raise your voice, improve your argument and lobby for Cannabis Law Reform which will benefit not harm our communities.

After you leave here today – continue the conversation – and tell your story to your local Member of Parliament.

Justin Sinclair, Pharmacologist and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine house at Western Sydney University quotes Cicero in getting his message across “Salus populi suprema lex esto” which translates to

“The health of the people should be the supreme law.”

We must let science and those with lived experience to ultimately inform evidenced based Medical and other Cannabis policy.

Medical Cannabis – Time to regain our bearings

“Where is North?”, I asked my cab driver as he assisted me from the car.  I had arrived in Melbourne and I felt disorientated by the long shadows and grey buildings as I looked skyward to find the Sun.  The man looked at me, somewhat puzzled and hesitantly he pointed in a very general direction.  I smiled and thanked him.

I can’t help but think that a similar sense of confusion has fallen over our legislators and policy makers when it comes to Medical Cannabis.  I have just spent three full days at the United in Compassion Medical Cannabis Symposium listening to an array of world class speakers and experts in their field sharing their knowledge, their concerns and their hopes.

It is all but impossible to capture every highlight and compelling narrative from the event, however what is clear is that the public are overwhelmingly in favour of and are seeking Cannabis as a treatment option.

Prior to the symposium commencing a day was dedicated to offer a Workshop which was Australia’s first Medical Cannabis course, designed for health care practitioners, by health care practitioners.  Dr David Caldicott who designed and delivered the training reported that attendance was high (92 participants) and the Basic Science Module met the needs of participants to a very high degree. Invitations have been received to deliver more training and it would be prudent for all jurisdictions to get on board.  Wise too for those who design the curriculum for medical and allied health students to incorporate more than a cursory reference to cannabis in the curriculum.  Dr Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD of California rightly stated that Cannabis does not have an advocate in medical training.  It should. Opportunity knocks.

Delegates heard heartbreaking testimonials from loved ones who spoke from lived experience as they recounted their very personal stories and the daily challenges they face in accessing medical cannabis via safe and affordable pathways.  The veteran community is heavily impacted with scores of returned service men and women in need of effective treatment options for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Cannabis is a proven medicine.  I would go further and suggest that any of our front- line responders who dedicate their lives to serving  in the Emergency Services deserve access to medical cannabis as a treatment option when the need arises.

Compassion for those wanting to access medical cannabis is seriously lacking by our legislators. It need not be that way.  I wonder if our legislators had lived experience of combat, peacekeeping, responding to emergencies and caring for our communities, if their view of Medical Cannabis would be different? I suspect it would be.

Delegates heard from Senator Richard Di Natale who rightly stated that “forcing patients to act like criminals is the crime”.  Senator Di Natale again called for an amnesty and access to home grown Medical Cannabis. I welcome his move to introduce a Private Members Bill into the Parliament to effect this.

Barrister and writer Greg Barns believes that Medical Cannabis is a human right, yet in Australia it is still strangled by Commonwealth and State red tape. Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and Barrister, Mick Palmer AO, told the audience that there is “lots of support across senior ranks of police for Medical Cannabis.”  So why is then that so many people are needlessly targeted by police, tying up resources which could be better used in real crime prevention and community engagement.  It was encouraging to learn that Greg Barns is currently exploring the option of a medical necessity defence for alternative (black) market healers.  Compassionate suppliers do genuinely meet an unmet need, albeit illegally under current law.

We heard of the incredible opportunities which exist for our aging population.  We learned about how creating environments in which people can thrive and “challenging the malignant philosophies” can deliver very different and positive outcomes in aging.  We learned that Medical Cannabis has a role to play, especially in alleviating chronic pain and other effects of aging.  The benefits to the economy in terms of the health budget alone are breathtaking.

Professor Simon Eckermann, Senior Professor of Health Economics at the Australian Health Services Research Institute and University of Wollongong has recently published Health Economics from Theory to Practice.  It includes full Medical Cannabis policy illustration.  This publication is a must for all Parliamentary Libraries and Health Policy units.  A preview can be found here: http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319506111

The technical and scientific keynotes can’t be captured in the space of this blog but I’d encourage anyone wanting to know more to visit the UIC website http://www.unitedincompassion.com.au/ in coming days and download the papers of interest.

For me the second to last word(s) comes from Justin Sinclair, Pharmacologist and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine house at Western Sydney University quoting Cicero “Salus populi suprema lex esto” which translates to “The health of the people should be the supreme law.”

The last word(s) are mine… Let’s find our bearings, look to the Sun and the stars if you must, but really you need not look further than the to the real and valid observations of those who work in this space. It is those observations and lived experience which should ultimately inform Medical Cannabis policy.

A note of gratitude and much respect to UIC Executive Director Lucy Haslam who believes that once you understand the benefits of Medical Cannabis and its potential to relieve suffering, you cannot hold on to views that were born of the “war on drugs.” Lucy rightly predicts that Cannabis will one day be viewed as a ‘wonder drug’ and hopes that mothers and nurses can lead the revolution. 

Lucy is but one strong voice, together we are many. Whist we do have an access framework in place it is cumbersome and access is also cost prohibitive. If you want to help it is quite simple.  Please add your voice by lobbying your local Member of Parliament (State & Federal) and together let’s work for safe, affordable and simple access to Medical Cannabis. 

The Heart of the Owl

The Heart of the Owl

 I hung a photograph on a wall in my home recently.  Oddly enough it wasn’t a photograph that I had captured.  It was taken by a dear friend.

When I first laid eyes on the image some months ago it spoke to me.  The words were not clearly audible, but I knew that in a matter of time the message would be deciphered, and the words would resound.

The moment came in the early hours, late last year.  Words filled my head and my heart and moved my soul.   I heard the words with such clarity I knew action needed to be taken and I felt I was ready.

I made a bold choice to walk a different path and with a sense of calm and reason I uttered three words “I’ve had enough.”

Those words said, a mixture of emotions ran through me and actions unravelled, some clumsily and some with absolute precision.  Then it struck me, all but one action had been taken.  I needed to hang that photograph.

I had been waiting for the right signs to guide me to the moment, and to the place it I would install it.  It did take time, but it eventually made its way from the corner of my home office, facing inwards, to a wall of my choosing, facing anyone who may have the privilege to gaze upon it.

It was through salty tears that I realised where I would hang it and when.  I was sad because this moment was as much about loss as it was about new beginnings.  I was leaving behind aspects of a life I wore like a comfy cashmere wrap and other aspects which ripped out my heart and eroded my very being.  With that sadness also came a sense of liberation and at that moment my tears stopped and I smiled.

Years of care, commitment, duty and responsibility have etched lines on my face and left scars, some virtual and others very real on my body, as it enters its 50th year.

I am a nurturer.  I am known to be reliable and down-to-earth.  I am acutely aware of the feelings of others, often to the detriment of my own.  I am comforted by order and structure and will more likely avoid confrontation and conflict than invoke it. Being kind, loving and compassionate comes naturally as does acceptance.

Let me tell you about the image.  It speaks to me and of promises I have made.  They are promises I have made to myself and to others.  When I look at the photograph I don’t just see…. I hear, I feel, I taste, and a heady scent consumes me.

I see wisdom and desire.  Not desire in the passionate sense, it is more profound than that.  If adoration, devotion, care and respect each had a sound, a note…. I would hear beautiful music. I do hear beautiful music.  Above all though, I feel.  I feel unconditional love, but it is of a love lost.  Each of those notes, if you will, now come together to create a striking sonata.

The image I have carefully fixed in place is that of an owl. A masked owl.  For me though, my mask has been ripped off, not peeled away but torn and discarded.

The Masquerade is over, my heart and soul are laid bare.

I am now writing the last few paragraphs of a chapter in my life which I knew had to draw to a close.

I have given, and I have received.  I have loved, and I have lost.  I am richer, stronger, at peace and above all, I am calm.

The owl has a downward pose.  It is respectful, as am I. Its eyes almost closed, yet open enough to acknowledge its surrounds and as if to pay tribute.  Its delicate plumage is so very intricate. A heart frames its features.  My heart forms a frame around memories I have created, and it beats for memories yet to be.  So many yet to be created.

There is no colour, there need not be, this moment is purely black and white. Ebony and ivory, a raven’s feathers falling on virgin snow, the plumage from a Pacific Gull washed onto a pristine beach.

It is black and white.

The heart of the owl.

This image  is subject to Copyright and is used with the permission of Annette Marner.


Oils ain’t Oils – Teresa McDowell

About the author of this piece:  Teresa is on a mission to empower people to harness the hemp life and lead a healthy living.  At the forefront of the movement since 2006 is Founder and Hemp Living Advocate, Teresa McDowell.  Since making her first, and most popular product, Skin Soothe, in Mt Barker, South Australia, Teresa has transformed her hemp skin care range into a brand with passion and purpose.

Oils ain’t Oils

Much has been shared in the media over recent times regarding hemp oil or ‘medical cannabis’.  For many people confusion remains around the differences between cannabis oil and hemp ‘seed’ oil.  Today I will endeavour to clear up some of that confusion.

Cannabis oil (sometimes referred to as ‘hemp oil’) is extracted from the flowering head and leaf of the cannabis plant.  Tinctures and oils made up of high THC (tetrahydrocannabidoids) and CBD (Cannabidiol) oil are used medicinally to treat chronic and terminal illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, pain etc.

Medicinal cannabis is only legally available through prescription and access is currently very restrictive in Australia.   More needs to be done to allow sufferers quick, affordable and safe access.

CBD oil (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid) is also scheduled as a class 4 drug leaving sufferers with no option but to go through the lengthy TGA process via a GP willing to support them.  There is necessarily no guarantee however of a successful outcome.  The current process, in my view, is morally bankrupt given this healing herb has no toxic or hallucinogenic side effects.  I would remind our regulators and legislators that one of the fundamental principles of medicine is ‘do no harm’.   What harm are we doing as a society when nature is criminalised?

Hemp ‘seed’ oil is a dark, golden-green oil cold pressed from the industrial hemp seed and doesn’t contain any of the psychotropic properties of medical cannabis. It has very low levels of THC, down to 0.3% with a maximum of 1%.

Akin to a health supplement (such as fish oil) it may help prevent conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and auto immune diseases by limiting the inflammatory process.

With the perfect balance of omega 3, 6 & 9 essential fatty acids (EFA’s), hemp seed oil is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds which is beneficial when dealing with degenerative diseases caused by inflammation.

A nutritional powerhouse, hemp seed oil is rich in essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, D & A.  Healthy fats (EFA’s) and plant-based proteins help maintain heart health, lower blood cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

Hemp seeds and oil are now legal to consume in Australia with regulations enacted on November 12, 2017.  This finally brings Australia in line with the rest of the western world and Aussie consumers can now enjoy the health benefits and delicious treats hemp foods offer.

Hemp Hemp Hooray!

More here: http://www.hemphemphooray.com.au/

Cannabis – Sharing your lived experience


This weekend’s event, incorporating Adelaide’s Inaugural Hemp & Cannabis Expo would not have been possible without the tireless work of Alex & Allison Fragnito – I congratulate them for taking the initiative and I thank those who have embraced the opportunity to participate and share their passion and their vision for Cannabis and Hemp.

A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

Everybody has a story to tell and when it comes to Cannabis, health and well-being for every positive story, there are many which don’t have happy endings.

It is my aim to empower you to have the courage to share your stories with those who can effect change. That is – those who make laws, our legislators, our Members of Parliament.

Personal narratives are powerful instruments of change.

Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.  You don’t always have to raise your voice to be heard, it’s often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

There are so many stories untold and many yet to be created – let’s make them positive stories of recovery, cure, health & well-being.

Every day I hear that people don’t want to have to continue to break the law to access cannabis – so let’s be part of the movement that changes the law which opens the door much wider on safe and affordable access to cannabis.

Some History

Mankind has been purposefully consuming Cannabis to cure what ails them, for as long as the plant has been in use for agriculture. The earliest written records date back to around 2700BC, when Chinese physicians were recommending tea made from Cannabis leaves to treat ailments such as gout and diseases such as malaria.

It was also a constituent of what was thought to be the world’s first anaesthetic.  Western society did not realise its potential until the late 1700s. It was found to have many medicinal applications and became a common remedy for ailments ranging from asthma to yellow fever.


Hemp, like Cannabis has a long history in mankind’s evolution. Fast forward to present day – The potential to support employment via regional cultivation, processing and manufacturing of Industrial Hemp is evident due to the multitude of end uses this ecologically and economically sustainable crop can offer.

I was delighted to learn that the first Industrial Hemp crops will be in the ground later this year, following the State Government’s approval of the first cultivation licenses.  Primary Industries & Regions SA (PIRSA) and the other client departments involved are to be congratulated for their part in supporting this process from its inception.

I am a strong proponent of the establishment and development of the industry in South Australia. The possibilities are endless, provided the formative industry is well supported and nature delivers optimal growing conditions. I applaud the primary producers who have recognised the immense potential of including Industrial Hemp into their cropping rotations.

It is important to remember Tammy Franks’ MLC (Greens) dedicated support in the South Australian Parliament and the introduction of her Bill in November 2016.

Just 12 months ago, on April 13, 2017, the Bill to allow for the cultivation of Industrial Hemp passed the State Parliament with the support of the State Government and the Opposition (now in Government) – all citing a win for jobs and the environment.  I would have to say a huge win.

I would be remiss of me not to recognised the advocacy of the Industrial Hemp Association of SA and its founder Teresa McDowell who said it has been her “life-long goal to see the emergence of the Industrial Hemp industry in this State”. 

The Government is stating that based on current predictions, it is anticipated that within five years an expanding industrial hemp industry in South Australia could have a farm gate value of $3 million a year.  I strongly believe that number will grow rapidly.

Cannabis Legalisation

This a bold and smart move by the Greens’ leader Richard di Natalie.  While Medical Cannabis is now technically legal in Australia we still have a long way to go to bring about safe and affordable patient access pathways.

I am hoping this plan to decriminalise and legalise Cannabis more broadly will motivate the Federal, State and Territory Governments to lift their game in the Medical Cannabis space too.

I have no affiliation to a political party, but I will state that I believe The Greens’ deserves to receive multi-partisan support.

If you had asked me 30 years ago, I would have been fiercely opposed any decrimilisation or legalisation of Cannabis. However, my mantra is now “Education is the Key” – I have taken the time to educate myself and the science is breathtaking.   This means that now my view is very far removed from that of the 80’s.

The war on drugs is futile. Drugs are a health and social issue. Dr Alex Wodak, AM who among other things, is the President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation has stated that “current drug policy is politically motivated and ultimately unsustainable”.  I must agree.

It is time to wake up Australia and develop and implement smart, pragmatic policies which will deliver better social, health and justice outcomes for Australians.

There is so much stigma surrounding Cannabis, much of it stemming from its prohibition in the 1930s and the unfounded claims about the plant.  There is still a lot of work to do to bring alignment between those who are opposed to legalisation and those who know and understand it is not a matter of if but when.  Regulation not only has the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue but there are significant social, health and environmental benefits too.

So far this year, 1,590 Australians have been killed by alcohol and there have been zero deaths from Cannabis, ever.  In 2017 alcohol was attributed to 5,475 deaths in Australia. That’s 15 deaths every day and that doesn’t cover off on those living with chronic illness as a result of alcohol consumption.

So where to you fit into this picture?  It’s simple – I need you to tell your stories.

I say again -personal narratives are powerful instruments of change. Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.  You don’t always have to raise your voice to be heard, it’s often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

Here are the links I demonstrated during my presentation.  Explore them in your own time.   Identify your Elected Members and share your story.




https://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Members/Pages/List%20of%20All%20Members.aspx by Electorate


Our Government will tell us that we need more studies. In the case of Medical Cannabis there is robust scientific, peer reviewed evidence and more than 17,000 scholarly articles speak to its efficacy and still there are doubters. Future generations will wonder what all the fuss was about.  Granny Storm Crows List is a fabulous resource – take a dip.


Encountering resistance   – This is a useful document identifying the range of types of resistance, primarily to gender equality but has wider application, and ideas on what framing strategies to use.


Framing Equality – Gives ideas on framing social issues to win support.


How to talk about economics: A guide to changing the story


You may also find some useful stuff on the New Economics website


United in Compassion



Dr David Caldicott, Australian Medical Cannabis Observatory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meDlQ7Qow-A


The SA Offi e of Industrial Hemp & Medicinal Cannabis


The Office has been initiated by the Government of South Australia to support the establishment of medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp industries.

Acting as a single point of contact the Office will work with industry and across government to provide ongoing support and advice, particularly for new ventures in the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp or medicinal cannabis.

I have to say it was very disappointing that the Office was not represented at the Expo.

So, I will conclude where I began….personal narratives are powerful instruments of change.

Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.  You don’t always have to raise your voice to be heard, it’s often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

There are so many stories untold and many yet to be created – let’s make them positive stories of recovery, cure, health & well-being.