Vale Dan Haslam - an inspirational voice in the medicinal cannabis debate

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I am saddened to hear of the passing of Dan Haslam and extend my condolences to his family, friends and the close-knit Tamworth community.

The death of a young man in his mid-20s is inescapably tragic.

Yet in his short time in the public spotlight, Dan challenged society to rethink how we extend compassion to people with terminal illness.

Five years ago, Dan was diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer. For the next four years, he endured debilitating surgeries and chemotherapy. The use of medicinal cannabis – Dan discovered – was a way to control the by-products of his condition, including nausea, severe vomiting, weight loss and mental distress.

Despite the cruellest of circumstances, medicinal cannabis allowed Dan to live with a measure of peace and autonomy in his final months.

The dignified advocacy of Dan and his mother Lucy – all the way to the NSW Premier – on the rights of the terminally ill to access medicinal cannabis speaks to their selflessness and courage.

Like thousands of others, I believe it is time to change the law in NSW.

In 2012 I initiated a Parliamentary Inquiry into medicinal cannabis, because I wanted to revive the discussion around this issue in our State.

It was the powerful and compelling advocacy of the Haslam family that convinced many in our community of the need for reform.

People experiencing terrible pain and suffering – and those who love and care for them – must be free to access medicinal cannabis without fear of stigma or persecution.

This is the considered position of NSW Labor – and we are prepared to work swiftly with all parties in the NSW Parliament to make it a reality.

I believe it is through stories like Dan’s that hearts and minds change – followed by laws – and society moves forward.