The West

CHIMTAL, AFGHANISTAN - MAY 17:  Poppies stained with opium grow in a poppie field May 17, 2005 in Chimtal province, Afghanistan. Workers in the field are paid 200 Afghanie ($4.00 USD) a day or sometimes 50 percent of the proceeds. Poppies in the Chimtal area have flowered, now is the time to collect the prized opium used to make heroin. Farmers work 12 hours a day scraping the opium milk from the bulbs for two weeks depending on the size of their fields. It takes 10 kg of opium to make 1 kg of heroin. Afghanistan is still the largest producer of opium in the world and the farmers dependent on money from these crops to feed their families. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Picture: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The State Government was yesterday under pressure to reconcile its support for the commercial cultivation of medicinal opiates while opposing medicinal cannabis in WA.

It came as WA's peak farm lobby group nominated the State's South West as ideal for growing poppies, which the Abbott Government has approved for production outside Tasmania for the first time.

_The West Australian _yesterday revealed Federal Cabinet had approved the cultivation of opium in other States and Territories subject to the relevant international safeguards against drug trafficking and misuse.

The medicinal opiate trade is lucrative and Tasmania is a global heavyweight in the production of components of narcotics including morphine, codeine and OxyContin.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston has pledged the State's support for WA opium crops provided it was "viable and profitable" for farmers.

Shadow health minister Roger Cook said it was "hypocritical" for the WA Government to support the cultivation of one drug for medicinal purposes but not another.

WA Labor supports the controlled prescription of medicinal cannabis in tablet or spray form to relieve pain, vomiting or nausea suffered by terminally or chronically ill patients when other methods fail.

It has support from former Federal Liberal MP Mal Washer, a medical doctor advocating for medicinal cannabinoids to be used to combat conditions such as epilepsy.

Health Minister Kim Hames, who is on leave, has previously said permitting the consumption of cannabis in tablet form would "totally dilute the message about stopping people smoking marijuana for recreational use".

Dr Washer yesterday described the stance as "foolishness".

"If you couldn't use medicine which in another form was an illicit drug, then straightaway you'd wipe out opiates, you'd wipe out amphetamines for ADD and you'd wipe out ketamine being used as an intravenous anaesthetic," he said.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said commercial poppy cultivation should be explored in WA.

"My attitude is that if it's another string on the agriculture bow, we would have to be in favour of it," he said. "The red tape would be something else for opium but I think the returns would be enough to cover the red tape."

The West Australian

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