Prime Minister Tony Abbott has thrown his support behind a trial of medical cannabis in NSW, with preparations for the trial to begin this week.

While the federal regulator has approved the drug for use under certain medical circumstances, approval for importation of the plant from Europe or the US could take several weeks, in which case the NSW government says it may grow its own crop.

In a letter to 2GB radio host Alan Jones in August Abbott said: “I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis, just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates.”

“If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose though and is being administered safely there should be no question of its legality. And if a drug that is proven to be safe abroad is needed here it should be available.

“I agree that the regulation of medicines is a thicket of complexity, bureaucracy and corporate and institutional self interest.

“My basic contention is that something that has been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn’t need to be tested again here.”

Upon announcing the trial in September, NSW Premier Mike Baird said the government will also explore how to provide the safest and most effective cannabis-based products.

“There are concerns around the issues of supply and distribution and these will be covered in the trial,” Baird said. “I hope the trial will bring some clarity to this area and enhance our understanding of the medical use of cannabis.”

Despite the green light on the state trial, Abbott suggested a federal trial would depend on how the NSW trial went.

“In the end, it is more state law than federal laws that govern this,” he told the Seven Network.

The NSW trial is a triumph for the Tamworth-based family of Daniel Haslam, 24, who has colo-rectal cancer and uses cannabis to alleviate his symptoms.

A campaign to allow him to legally use the drug collected more than 195,000 signatures and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has been a strong advocate for the family. More on that here.

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