If you ask the South Australian police what they think of Jenny Hallam, they’ll call her a criminal. Ask many others, and they’ll say she’s their angel.
Ms Hallam, a marijuana reform activist, is facing up to 10 years in prison after police raided her house earlier this year and charged her with manufacturing a controlled drug – medicinal cannabis oil. But Hallam has no regrets.
Hallam took to social media after her arrest, urging supporters of medicinal marijuana to rally behind her before her court date next month: “I can’t believe this government is going to prosecute someone for trying to save people’s lives,” she remarked, “What they are going to do is charge people like me who are making cannabis oil and supplying it to people who are sick and dying.”
For the last few years, Hallam has helped produce medicinal cannabis oil, which she gives freely to cancer sufferers, those with chronic pain, epileptics and others with serious health conditions.
Hallam has gained considerable public support since her arrest, which has led to a petition and a protest outside South Australian parliament. While Australia lags behind many other developed countries when it comes to cannabis reform, South Australia is perhaps the furthest behind. Jack Snelling, the State’s Health Minister, has expressly ruled out reforms to give sick people access to medicinal cannabis.
Hallam was recently in Sydney, where she spoke at a protest calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis. While here, she took the time to speak with Sydney Criminal Lawyers.
“I have a chronic back injury and nerve damage from car accidents, it means I have a resting pain level of about a 6/10 on an everyday level” she stated. “I was on morphine and oxycontin for about 15 years and was getting really sick, I got down to about 38kg.”
Hallam discovered the medicinal effects of cannabis by accident, after friends offered her the plant one night before dinner. “I’d smoked it when I was younger, so I knew what it would feel like, but I didn’t realise it would actually make me feel better. For the first time that night I ate a full meal, I hadn’t eaten a full meal in two years or something, and I slept like a baby.”
The discovery turned Hallam’s life around: “I’m getting more rest than I was getting from the opiates, and less stressful sleep. They were taking the edge off the pain, but they weren’t taking the pain away. Morphine actually damages the pain receptor pathways, and increases your pain levels, so the longer you’re on morphine the more pain you’re going to be in.”
Her views were reinforced during her late father’s experience with cancer. “I saw him die horribly, I had been sneaking oil into him at the hospital, and he’d just come home.”
“Unfortunately that night, he wasn’t able to get his dose, we he began to falter an ambulance was called, and he was given morphine instead.” When he passed, Hallam pledged to never let anyone else go through the same experience if she could prevent it.
“It just started off with friends, and friends of family and stuff like that. They said ‘wow she looks good what’s she using?’ I had heaps of it so I said no worries, they got better and they had their friends and family ask so they put them onto me.”
“The feedback’s been amazing, they call me their angel. I was actively helping about 100-120 people when I was raided.”
Her lawyer has argued that because she gives away the cannabis oil products for free, her actions should not be regarded as criminal. “In some places, like New South Wales, there are directives for police to exercise some discretion about whether they charge some people” the lawyer told reporters, “There are certainly people who will suffer, absolutely no doubt there are people who will suffer.”
When asked whether she was fearful about speaking publicly about her actions, Hallam responded that she’s glad her actions are raising awareness.
“Someone has to stand up and scream a little bit louder and say this isn’t right. I could have just taken the plea bargain and gone quietly away, but nothing would have changed. The Government keeps saying we have to wait for the products to become legal, but waiting for them means people will die. It might be your partner that gets breast cancer and needs it, and the Government might just turn around and say no you’ve got to wait.”
“We have to talk about it, everyone used to think of black market cannabis oil as something bikies do, now they can see good people make it – and that it can actually save lives.”
Image Credit: Dylan Coker