Dr Andrew Katelaris
Dr Andrew Katelaris recalls being contacted by a 78-year-old
patient soon after Dr Katelaris appeared in an episode of ABC
TV’s Catalyst program discussing the medical use of marijuana.
“The patient was so desperate for help that she found
my name in the White Pages and rang me at home,” says
Dr Katelaris, who works in a Sydney private hospital in post-operative
The woman had mild polymyositis that appeared to have been
exacerbated after a statin was prescribed; she became wheelchair
bound and experienced chronic pain. A pain management clinic
prescribed morphine, but it caused severe constipation, unsteadiness
“She had already tried cannabis in cookies, which had
provided benefit but ... she wasn’t able to smoke the
herb,” Dr Katelaris says.
“I provided her with a sublingual tincture prepared from
carefully selected cannabis [plants]. It led to substantial
improvement and she was able to reduce her morphine dosage with
its associated side effects.”
However, the prescription landed him in hot water. Dr Katelaris,
who has been involved in industrial hemp research and medical
cannabis experimentation for 16 years, is currently waiting
to hear the outcome of NSW Medical Board charges, including
professional misconduct, for prescribing cannabis to the woman
and other patients.
He also appeared in court on charges of large-scale production
of marijuana after drug squad detectives raided his farm where
he was growing half a hectare of what he claims was a very-low-THC-fibre
hemp crop. Dr Katelaris says most of the more serious charges,
including supply, were dropped when he appeared in court last
month, although he will still have to appear in court early
next year to face some lesser charges, such as possession.
Asked about the ethical issues raised by breaking the law,
Dr Katelaris says: “It is not a matter of ethics, it is
about the scientific evidence that overwhelmingly shows that
cannabis has a beneficial effect on the symptoms of severe disease
including spinal spasticity and MS, HIV and cancer.
“The illegality stems from racist and corrupt laws put
in place in the US in the 1930s. The law should serve humans,
but instead the cannabis laws cause harm and serve to persecute
a most disadvantaged group in society.
“Because of the illegality there is a $5-billion black
market with profits mostly going to organised crime. What are
the ethics of forcing sick people to go to criminals?”
There is support for doctors who provide illegal treatments
when they are acting for the good of patients.
Dr Andrew John Katelaris was convicted on March 8 in 2006 of
one count of cultivating not less than a large commercial quantity
He grew the plants on his property at Salisbury, near Dungog
in the NSW Hunter Valley.
The NSW District Court in Newcastle was told tests showed the
crop had a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, making it
of no value as a drug.
During sentencing submissions today, the court was told Dr
Katelaris' licence as a medical practitioner in NSW had been
revoked for three years.
The NSW Medical Tribunal banned Dr Katelaris over the self-administration
of cannabis and for supplying it to some patients.