Only weeks after making medical marijuana legal, the Australian Commonwealth has decided to discontinue funding for their National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. The NCPIC is located at the University of New South Wales and since 2007 it has been provided with $3 million each year to provide a helpline, online access and in-office information and treatment for people considered to have cannabis use disorder – in other words, cannabis “addiction”.
Of course, in recent years we’ve come to find that cannabis is non-narcotic, therefore you cannot become physically dependent on it in the same way you could opiates. However, in rare cases, people have become psychologically dependent on marijuana – which is where cannabis use disorder comes into play. This treatment center had a focus of only one substance, and one of the safest substances that someone could choose to consume, when there are dozens more dangerous substances out there with little to no resources for addicts.
“The funding of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre has been considered in the context of broader community and sector information needs on alcohol and other drugs, rather than focusing on one specific substance,” the spokesperson said.
The funding that once went to cannabis use prevention each year, will now be spent on providing similar information and services for a wider range of substances including alcohol, methamphetamine and heroin. All of these are of more concern in the country right now when compared to cannabis use, which has seen no dramatic change in use over the last twenty years. Of course, even though this switch will provide a far larger number of people with the help they need, there are always people who are going to worry that defunding something like this could become a problem over time.
“Our greatest fear in closing the centre is that vulnerable people will seek information from pro-legalization propaganda websites, and make decisions that could lead to their health declining,” the center’s director, Professor Jan Copeland, said in a statement. “The decision to close NCPIC, an organization with no position on legalization or prohibition, at this time of policy confusion and public misinformation, is extremely unfortunate.”
However, with medical marijuana now legal in Australia, it is much more likely that anyone who was actually concerned that they may be addicted to cannabis would now be willing to talk to their doctor about it. At the same time there will still be information available through the Australian government, only without the only focus being on cannabis. Hopefully this funding switch will help more people with addictions to dangerous substances.