Ex-mayor drives medicinal cannabis change

Former mayor Roz Blades is calling for medicinal cannabis patients to be allowed to drive. 198699_01 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Former Greater Dandenong mayor Roz Blades has described being overwhelmed by chronic pain in her final weeks as mayor as well as her recovery with the help of medicinal cannabis.

Ms Blades suddenly retired as mayor in a shock announcement in October 2019.

She says she suffered a nervous breakdown after the high levels of nerve pain became “neurological” and “unmanageable”.

“The pain goes into your brain, and your brain can’t cope with it.”

She starved due losing any urge to eat. She uncharacteristically forgot things as some people speculated she had dementia.

“I couldn’t go to a council meeting, I couldn’t read a meeting agenda and I couldn’t add up.

“You’re someone else and you don’t really know it.”

She has been on the road to recovery since swapping to medicinal cannabis oil about 18 months ago.

“The change in me is remarkable. I have more of a life now.”

However, Ms Blades is banned from driving while taking the medicine – even though it has no THC or hallucinogenic effects.

In a recent submission to a State Parliament inquiry into the use of cannabis in Victoria, she urged law-makers to drop the driving ban.

For more than 50 years, Ms Blades had managed chronic pain with medications such as Mersyndol, Forte, Tramal, Pallexia, Lyrica and Gabapentin – and driven without incident.

However, medical cannabis didn’t cause the side-effects of some of the pharmaceuticals, such as “brain fog” and other life-long issues, she stated.

“I would strongly suggest that driving whilst taking these drugs is more dangerous and injurious than

taking plant based medical cannabis, which is approved by the (Therapeutic Goods Administration).”

Ms Blades said the driving ban was deterring others from taking medicinal cannabis and so they continued to endure pain.

“A young woman I know with fibromyalgia will not take medical cannabis because she cannot get to work.

“If you have to take approved medical cannabis and don’t live near public transport and work,

you don’t have a choice but to drive illegally.

“If you live in pain, alone with no family to drive you and have to work, you have the choice of living

and driving in agony, driving on drugs which are legal (and) may or may not impair your on-road

abilities or taking a plant based TGA approved medication and risk being drug tested.”

Ms Blades suggests authorities trial patients driving limited distances to prove her case.

“It will help people get off the barbituates and opiates and onto clean medication.”

Obtaining medicinal cannabis was a three-month period. Ms Blades saw a doctor, who applied for government approval before providing her a prescription.

Medicinal cannabis oil, being not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. So patients must bear the full $232 cost for a 10-week course.

“You’ve got to have the money to go on it. This will push people onto the black market and onto the ‘wrong stuff”.”