The case for medicinal cannabis

My dad only ever tried marijuana once, when he was with some hockey mates in his 20s. “I didn’t like it,” he told me. “It made me skittish and jumpy; I much prefer a beer.”

When he was aged in his 70s, I tried to convince him to try it again.

Because by then, my dad was dying of cancer. He was in excruciating pain, and the script of endone his doctor kept prescribing just wasn’t cutting it.

With cancer growing in his bones, and the act of even standing up causing him to wince, we were looking for anything and everything that could ease his pain.

A friend of a friend who was very active in the cancer healing community offered to find us some medicinal cannabis; can’t hurt to try, I thought?

It was a little trickier to procure that we imagined. There is a legal process in Australia for sourcing and using medicinal cannabis, but it can (understandably) only be prescribed by a medical practitioner, is done on a case-by-case basis.

This is causing many people who are in pain and dealing with serious medical conditions to seek out cannabis in less legal, more risky ways, says Elisabetta Faenza, CEO, LeafCann Group & Medicinal Cannabis Precision Medicine Expert.

“If the legal medicinal cannabis sector is unable to grow and produce enough medicine to satisfy demand, many patients will look to the dangerous black market,” Faenza says.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved the use of medicinal cannabis for neuropathic or nerve pain, yet many doctors are still wary of prescribing it – despite the growing volume of studies that are showing very promising results from controlled products.

“Accelerating growth of the legitimate medicinal cannabis sector, not backyard operations, is the only way to ensure more people access safe pain relief.”

In my dad’s case, we never got it over the line; he became too sick, too soon, and had to be moved to a hospice for full-time care.

But for others’ who are suffering from cancer or other debilitating diseases, I see no reason why medicinal cannabis shouldn’t be more freely available.

What do you think? Should we aim to make medicinal cannabis easier for patients to access – or do you think a more open system would lead to abuse and misuse?


Measles cases up 300%

We’re a little over three months into the year, and we’ve clocked over a new milestone already – with the number of measles cases globally having increased by a staggering 300%.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms that more than 100,000 cases have been reported worldwide in 2019.

In the whole of 2018, only 28,000 cases were logged.

In Australia, we’ve had 92 cases confirmed in 2019 – again, close to the number of cases for the whole of last year.

I must admit, I thought that the big problem here was parents who aren’t vaccinating their kids. But, there’s another surprising factor at play here.

Yes, these massive figures are partially driven by parents deciding not to vaccinate their kids. And, yes, the reality is: if people don’t get their act together and seriously consider the implications of not immunising themselves and their children, we could face a situation where measles quite literally catch on.

However, experts suggest there is another factor driving this rapid increase in measles cases – and it’s travelling.

In 2012, a 25-year-old man returned to Australia from Thailand carrying the virus. This one case led to 167 Australian cases during the eight months that followed, largely in southwest Sydney.

What a legacy for this poor bloke! His one infection resulted in more than 160 others getting sick. It’s clear from this type of story that measles are highly infectious – and we’re not talking about an illness that gives you a bit of a rash and a headache, and then you recover.

Measles is a disease that can lead to encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, which can be life-threatening and cause brain damage.

Horrifyingly, droplets of the virus can hang about in the air for up to two hours – long after the person infected with the disease has left the room!

Even more horrifyingly, right now, we’re at a tipping point, with measles numbers rising at a rate not seen in decades.

Associate Professor Anita Heywood from the University of New South Wales, who evaluates immunisation programs and immunisation gaps, says the vaccination movement is having an impact on infection rates in the US, which is important, because this is a global problem.

“Australians travel a lot and no matter how well we control measles in Australia, if the world isn’t controlling it as well, we will always have people coming back with it,” she adds.

House Money

How this election could impact your wealth

The election has been called for May 18, 2019, which means we have a solid month of hard-core political campaigning ahead of us.

I’m already exhausted.

Promises will be made – aka, lies will be told. We’ll get sick of seeing headshots of Shorten and Morrison popping up in the news every night, debating this or that as they sledge each other.

And in amongst all of that, we as voters have to try and get across each party’s policies, so we can decide who to vote for, and who might be in the best position to lead our country.

On the one hand, I am VERY grateful to live in a country where our right to vote is a given. In other parts of the world, people fight for this basic right; in some countries, this fight has cost lives. We are endlessly lucky to be living within a functioning political system where we are handed the ability to vote on a platter.

Beyond this, however, I have to admit I’m disheartened about the state of Australia’s political system right now.

We have the Liberals: a political party so volatile and dysfunctional, it has internally ousted its own leaders twice in recent years.

Then we have Labor, the party that is “for the people”. Amongst other things, they are proposing changes to negative gearing that have the power to completely transform housing and the economy. If they are elected and negative gearing is radically reformed as per their plan, we will see:

• Investors fleeing the property market.
• Therefore, there will be fewer rental homes available, which will push up rents.
• There will be less demand for property, which could see property prices fall further. However, all those first homebuyers who want to see houses become more affordable won’t be able to get their foot on the ladder, because they’ll be struggling to save a deposit while paying their sky-high rent. The millions of homeowners already in the market, will also see their equity and wealth fall.
• The economy will take a massive hit. The property industry employs 1 million Australians, directly and indirectly. If the property market is slaughtered after tinkering with negative gearing, we’ll see property-related small businesses struggle, unemployment figures rise, and household wealth levels drop.

Voting for the Liberals doesn’t feel like a vote for stability of government.

Voting for Labor doesn’t feel like a vote for a stable economy.

When viewed in this light, it doesn’t seem like much of a choice…

Israel Folau

The real reason Israel Folau shared ‘that’ post

It’s been hard to avoid the latest social media dust up involving footy player Israel Folau.

In case you somehow missed it, he posted a meme sharing his strong religious views. I’m not even going to reference what he wrote, because it’s extremely offensive to, well, almost anyone with a pulse.

(It’s also incredibly ironic, because in it, he calls out “idolators”. An idolator is a person who worships false idols. Says a guy whose career was literally built on the back of people idolising him. Without his sinning “idolators” he would have no career to speak of or platform to spew his views to… but I digress.)

Back to my point… A lot of people have reacted to his strong religious views. A lot of people have called for him to be sacked by Rugby Australia, rightly pointing out that his views do not align with the views of a sport that is trying to promote diversity and inclusion.

Rugby Australia heard the people, and they responded… ripping up his $4m contract along the way.

But here’s the thing: why did Folau put his career and income at risk by continually sharing such divisive views?

A cursory glance at his Instagram page reveals that the highly charged Christian hype he’s been posting has been accelerating in recent months. It went from the odd post about Jesus here and a thank you to God there, to a constant supply of very strong religious rhetoric.

Browsing the reaction on social media, I think one user had cottoned on to why.

Adam Thompson points out:

“This is @izzyfolau on the cover of a gay magazine @starobserver promoting a gay rugby tournament @binghamcup. What that tells me is this guy is about his religion when it is convenient to him.

I am pro-freedom of speech as long as it does not discriminate against others. Israel can be pro his religion without denigrating other people. He clearly wants out of his deal.

He left the NRL for money, he left the AFL because he wasn’t very good at it, and he is leaving the @wallabies because he doesn’t see them winning a World Cup. I am not religious, but am a big believer in the fact that faith can be a huge tool in people finding their best selves. But it can also be used by others to conveniently suit their choices and views. Israel wants back in the @nrl and is using his controversial ”views” conveniently to create a path to do so.”

It certainly puts a new spin on things, doesn’t it?

What do you think? Should Izzy have been fired by Rugby Australia over this post? Do you think it was a strategic move as he has other career plans elsewhere?

Supermarket Food Label Packaging

Our food has been lying to us

For the last two months, I’ve been on something of a health kick. I’ve managed to misplace 8kg since the beginning of the year, largely by going back to the good ol’ fashioned basics: exercise and diet.

I go to the gym five days a week, and I count calories.

Simple. Boring. Effective.

But, perhaps not effective enough.

Because I’ve just discovered that all of my fastidious calorie counting is potentially built on lies. LIES, I tell you!

Susan Roberts, a nutritionist at Tufts University in Boston, has found that labels on packaged foods miss their true calorie counts by an average of 18% – while the information on some processed frozen foods misstated their calories by as much as 70%! In other words…

The tub of yoghurt that claims to be 150 calories? It could be around 180 calories.

The sushi roll that is labelled as 300 calories? It could be over 350.

And let’s not even get started on the calorie content of wine

Apparently, American government regulations allow food labels to understate calories by up to 20%. I did some digging locally, and although I couldn’t find the legal requirements in Australia around nutritional labelling, I did discover that Australian labelling laws are fairly strict, so that’s something to derive comfort from…

Incorrect calorie counts aren’t the only problem, Roberts adds; it’s their very calculation that leaves a little to be desired.

They’re based on how much heat a food product gives off when it burns in an oven, however, the human body is much more complex than an oven.

“When food is burned in a laboratory, it surrenders its calories within seconds. By contrast, the real-life journey from dinner plate to toilet bowl takes on average about a day, but can range from eight to 80 hours depending on the person,” reports The Economist.

“A calorie of carbohydrate and a calorie of protein both have the same amount of stored energy, so they perform identically in an oven. But put those calories into real bodies and they behave quite differently.”

Moral of the story? Much like when your browsing your mates’ highly filtered photos on social media, your best bet is to factor in a decent sized “fluff factor” when reading food labels. Consider the calories listed as the best possible scenario and add 20% for good measure.