POT FOR PAIN: Grieving husband makes plea for law overhaul
WHEN Yasmin McKillop was battling the brain tumour that would later claim her life, she was prescribed endone and oxycontin, which left her so lethargic she was slumped in chairs and robbed of the energy to enjoy her final time with her family.
Her husband James was desperate to relieve her pain, clutching at straws to give her the quality of life she deserved.
After reading about the potential cancer-fighting and pain-relieving effects of marijuana, which he prefers to call cannabis due to "negative stigma", they ventured onto the wrong side of the law in a desperate plight that landed him in court.
Mr McKillop couldn't bear the guilt of being unable to help his beloved wife, despite also wrestling the guilt of supporting the black market, so they began growing their own marijuana plants.
The Stanthorpe man is now advocating for the drug to be legalised so others do not have to suffer the same turmoil when trying to help their loved ones.
Mr McKillop had been a marijuana user throughout his life after an explosion at an apple juice factory doused him in caustic acid left him completely blind and with post-traumatic stress disorder.
While using the drug, his wife survived on two Panadeine Forte tablets once or twice a day for pain, but was also able to make the most of her final time.
Also using it for his own eye pain, Mr McKillop said the drug relieved pain as well as mental stress.
"It's more a distraction from the pain, a lot of the time you say you've forgotten about it," he said.
Mr McKillop said many people turned to marijuana as a medication because it didn't cause overdose and they often preferred a natural option after exhausting other options.
But the 51-year-old has not escaped the heavy hand of the law when it comes to the illegal drug.
In September last year, just six weeks after his wife died, police raided his home.
He led officers into his front room where they found more than 5kg of marijuana, including 51 plants, as well as "sophisticated" hydroponic equipment.
He was charged with producing and possessing dangerous drugs as well as possessing equipment used in the commission of a crime.
Mr McKillop said he embarked on intensive research about the drug before using it, discovering it could help people with epilepsy, anxiety and fibromyalgia.
But he never felt comfortable for supporting the black market, he said.
"You're putting money into their pockets so you arm them so when they have a shoot out on a suburban street it could be your kid who's shot," he said.
"You're suffering guilt because you feel like you can't do enough for your partner and then suffering guilt because you're supplying a lowlife or major criminal (with money)."
This is why he hopes the tide will turn in Australia to follow in the footsteps of other countries who have seen great success with decriminalising drugs.
Due to stigma stemming from America through the war on drugs and media content such as the movie Reefer Madness, he said people saw marijuana users as "useless stoners".
But Mr McKillop said other areas of the world, including Portugal, had seen benefits of decriminalisation with quality of life and employment rates increasing while domestic violence and traffic accidents had decreased.
"I can only see benefit for society compared the damage alcohol and cigarettes do to the society already," he said.
"I can't see it having a detriment apart from someone having a criminal record or having the police turning up because they had a joint rather than six beers.
"Alcohol is one of those things where you're not a functional part of society, but I've been a functional part of society for the entire time.
"The war on drugs worldwide has been ineffectual, it did the same thing as the alcohol prohibition did - line criminals' pockets with money."
Mr McKillop, who is a musician and often performs for free, appeared at Warwick District Court this week, pleading guilty to his three drugs charges.
He wept at the bench as his defence lawyer recounted his desperate attempts to help relieve his wife's pain.
Judge Gregory Koppenol said producing and possessing dangerous drugs were serious offences, but acknowledged the drugs were for personal use and not commercial gain.
"You and she were desperate in trying to deal with her condition and you tried cannabis, people try anything they an in those circumstances," he said.
Judge Koppenol said he would not usually consider probation for the offences, but due to Mr McKillop's background it would be more appropriate than a fine or jail sentence.
Mr McKillop was sentenced to 18 months' probation and his convictions were recorded.
People convicted of producing dangerous drugs in Queensland face up to 25 years in jail.