Dr Andrew Katelaris at Medican in Nimbin on Saturday, October 20.
Dr Andrew Katelaris at Medican in Nimbin on Saturday, October 20. Liana Turner

'Dr Pot' calls for moratorium on cannabis charges

AUSTRALIA'S "Dr Pot" has called for a moratorium on cannabis-related prosecutions.

While medicinal use of cannabis is now legal in Australia, the legal rigmarole of accessing prescriptions and product were among the issues discussed at Nimbin's Medican expo at the weekend.

Former doctor Andrew Katelaris, currently on bail and facing trial on cannabis-related charges on November 5, was among the event's speakers.

He told The Northern Star prosecutions should be halted until issues around the plant's medical use were resolved.

This includes exorbitant prices for legally-sourced cannabis, he said.

"What I'm pushing for is a moratorium on cannabis prosecutions for the next few years while the issues are worked out in a sort of rational way," Mr Katelaris said.

He plans to argue the "public good" of his cannabis oil possession outweighed any benefits of penalising him.

"The DPP will be challenged in my case to demonstrate what public good there was in prosecuting me at all," he said.

Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone welcomed the response to the expo, in which other speakers included a lawyer and a host of people offering advice on medicinal cannabis.

Mr Balderstone was hopeful there was scope for change in current laws. One key issue is patients who use medicinal cannabis and drive, risking positive roadside drug tests and criminal charges.

"I think the roadside drug testing is a big problem and we can't introduce a meaningful medical cannabis program without getting some sanity on that," he said.

"It should be an impairment test."

But solving that problem may not be straightforward.

"They haven't got the science ... on how to measure it or how much is safe or not safe," Mr Balderstone said.

"It's different to alcohol."

In the wake of Canada and parts of the US legalising all uses of cannabis, he said this could become a broader issue in Australia.

"The pressure from North America, from Canada, I don't think we can not listen to them," he said.

"I think Australia's lagging but it will change, it's coming.

"This is a health issue. The whole criminal thing only comes in because it's a fight over who's going to make all the money out of people's pain."

Greens candidate for Lismore Sue Higginson said Australia needed "significant legal reform" and to remove drugs from the legal system.