The Australian Christian Lobby supports scientific trials of cannabis for medicinal purposes, but is concerned about a proposal to allow the possession and use of the dangerous drug without medical prescription.

The ACL’s comments are in the wake of NSW Premier Mike Baird’s announcement yesterday of a trial and proposed law reforms governing the medical use of cannabis. “If marijuana genuinely has a palliative effect that other drugs do not, it should be made available to patients in the same way other medications are,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

“But this can only be known after rigourous controlled trials, and that’s a matter for medical science.”

Mr Shelton also said that the possession and use of marijuana should remain a criminal offence.

“Prescribing cannabis as a medicine should be left to a doctor,” he said. “We should not go down the path of allowing possession and self-prescription of what is a highly dangerous drug.”

The Premier’s announcement includes allowing a defence for terminally ill people against police charges for using or possessing marijuana.

“We sympathise with the desire to find relief from pain,” Mr Shelton said, “but it is important to leave this in the hands of medical professionals.

“Allowing possession and self-medication is running ahead of the medical trials,” Mr Shelton said.

Mr Shelton noted that the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is also cautious about decriminalising medical marijuana.