Rocky’s new election candidate wants to legalise marijuana
QUEENSLAND has been slower than other states and countries to embrace the positive aspects coming from decriminalising and legalising the use of marijuana but Laura Barnard is determined to ensure it is a conversation had in the Rockhampton community.
By throwing her hat into the ring to run as a Rockhampton candidate for the Legalise Cannabis QLD Party in the October state election, Ms Barnard admits she is diving into the deep end.
“When the LCQ Party was mentioned several months ago I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
In 2017, Ms Barnard suffered an injury to her right foot leaving her with arthritis and nerve damage.
With two surgeries under her belt and many ahead of her, it was a large part of why she believed legalising cannabis was the best way forward as a treatment to assist those living with medical conditions in our community.
“A large part of why I believe in legalising cannabis is to do with the lack of aid, and quite frankly, scrutiny I have received from numerous medical professionals,” Ms Barnard said.
“I am yet to find a reliable and safe treatment for my continuous pain.”
Not content to sit around feeling sorry for herself when there were plenty of others in the same boat, Ms Barnard reached the recent conclusion that a career in politics could be a way to enact transformative change in society.
“It certainly wasn’t what I envisioned growing up, but the more I’ve reached out and spoken with some current members of parliament and researched, the more I’ve come to realise it fits snugly with my aspirations for an improved approach to community care,” she said.
“It’s my aspiration to tackle this head on and give a voice to those that need it most.
“I whole heartedly want to make a change so people can get the support and care they rightly deserve.”
Ms Barnard moved to Rockhampton in May with her husband and one-year-old son.
Her mother Jenny and father Paul Barnard were both originally from Rockhampton and she spent her childhood travelling with them throughout CQ.
A full-time mum, and overseer of renovations to their family home (formerly owned by her grandmother), Ms Barnard has qualifications in business, community services, tourism and events and is looking to study justice management online.
There were a number of reasons why Ms Barnard was compelled to run in the election.
“The current delivery system for medical cannabis is a schnozzle,” she said.
“People can’t afford the products especially if they are disabled by their conditions and unable to work.
“It has made me really angry to see good people on social media saying they are having to turn themselves into criminals to get some kind of quality of life, even worse when they are doing it for their children and people they care about.
“I abhor the complete and utter waste of taxpayers money being squandered on victimless crime. I believe there are a lot of people in Rocky who share this sentiment.”
Ms Barnard said Queensland had the highest rate of arrests of personal users of any Australian state.
“If people have to grow their own for medicine because they can’t afford the ridiculously high price of imported corporate products, then they should not be subject to arrest,” she said.
“If people want to use cannabis as a way to relax after work in the same way others have a wine or a beer, then what is the harm?
“Wouldn’t we prefer the money to go back into our community and fund services rather than line the pockets of those that seek to corrupt it?”
Ms Barnard regarded alcohol as creating greater harm to the community with its adverse health impacts and anti-social behaviour.
“We all know that one punch can and will kill. We don’t hear about cannabis users causing so much harm to the personal safety of the public,” she said.
“People should be given the choice. When police take cannabis off the street, they are opening the gateway to harder drug use.
“Ice is very problematic in Queensland, let alone Australia as a whole, and it needs to be stamped out and it’s victims given access to health services and a real plan for rehabilitation.
“I want to see cannabis legally available to all adults without the fear of being turned into a criminal. A lot of cannabis users are laid back and just want to go about their day like you and I.”
Ms Barnard said from what she had seen already, there was a strong appetite for legalisation here in Rockhampton; not just from medical users but social users and some that didn’t partake.
Noting a recent interview where One Nation’s candidate for Rockhampton Torin O’Brien sought to destigmatise and improve access to medicinal marijuana by putting it on the Phamaceutical Benefits Scheme, Ms Barnard accused Mr O’Brien of “not understanding the system”.
“Cannabis will likely never be on the PBS, a crushing outlook for many like myself,” she said.
“Companies have to register their products on the ARTG (register) at the TGA before they can apply for a PBS subsidy. It is not the government’s job. The registration process is protracted and extremely expensive for pharmaceutical drugs.
“Cannabis should be under the complementary side of the TGA. It would fit far more comfortably there.
“I will be lobbying the government to address the recommendations made by the Barriers to Medical Cannabis Inquiry handed down in March this year; for states to introduce a subsidy scheme – but legalising cannabis would prevent that expense and bring in tax to help pay for other health needs.”
She said the LCQ party had a number of policy statements on its website ranging from health and human rights to the environment, law and justice and they extolled the benefits to the Queensland economy of opening up the hemp industry.
“As I’ve tried to highlight, legalising cannabis is one of many concerns, hopes and aspirations I have.
“I’m not a one trick pony and truly will be giving it my best shot to encourage voters to put the LCQ at number 1.
“Even at the end of the day, if we can send a strong message to the ALP and LNP that the people of Queensland want cannabis law reform on the table, it’s all worth it.”