Like Olivia Newton-John, Melbourne documentary filmmaker Ned Donohoe, 27, argues it’s way past time the government quit failing seriously ill Australians and legalised medical marijuana.
“Me and my partner don’t have a kid. But if we did, and if they had cancerous tumours, we’d want to get hold of cannabis oil right f—ing now,” he tells The New Daily.
“I’d go to jail. I wouldn’t care.”
Donohoe’s compelling documentary Green Light prosecutes the case for the health benefits of non-psychotropic cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD).
It claims that oral or topical treatment can hugely benefit patients with cancer, other debilitating diseases, injuries and chronic pain.
Following her own diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, Newton-John has been a staunch advocate for the use of cannabis in cancer treatment.
In Melbourne on October 6 for her fundraising Olivia Newton-John Wellness Walk Research Run, the singer told the Sunday Herald Sun “Cannabis should be made easily available to everyone who needs it”.
She’s been able to stop using opiates and painkillers by using cannabis, and claims Australia “should and could” become an epicentre for cannabis research.
On the same day as Newton-John’s walk, federal health minister Greg Hunt announced $3 million in funding to trial medicinal cannabis.
It’s great timing for Donohoe, who until 2015 hadn’t given much thought to the legalisation debate.
Then he executive produced director Andy McCallum’s short doco The Pot Doctor.
The documentary features rogue doctor Andrew Katelaris, who was deregistered in 2005 for his illegal production of medical cannabis to treat sick children.
It was posted on PLGRM, the documentary platform Donohoe – whose parents Caroline Wilson and Brendan Donohoe are journalists – co-founded after studying media at RMIT.
“I saw [Katelaris’] incredible results with kids with epilepsy and that was that,” Donohoe says of the path towards making Green Light.
Shot over 20 days, it follows two passionate proponents of CBD treatment.
Living in NSW’s Northern Rivers region, they are prepared to break the law to help thousands of people, often without charge.
Grey pony-tailed Nicholas Morley is the founder of fashion label Buddhist Punk and was a creative director at Mambo.
He has hung with the likes of Keith Richards, Madonna, Bono and Chrissy Amphlett, who died of breast cancer in 2013.
His partner in caring crime goes only by the moniker ‘CBD Luke’.
Both have overcome personal struggles with mental ill-health and addiction and are committed to helping others. That’s why they agreed to Green Light, even though it’s risky for them to go public.
“They’re just knockabout Aussie blokes,” Donohoe says.
“One of the big challenges was convincing them to open up about their pasts. They were like, ‘It’s not about us, it’s about the patients.’
“Yeah, of course it is, but the cycle of empathy got me engaged. People need to know why they do this.”
The patient stories are heart-wrenching. One young boy, Hunter, was diagnosed with tumours behind his eyes. His mother, Danielle, was desperate.
“It was literally her last resort,” Donohoe says. “They tried everything.”
Six weeks after taking CBD oil, Hunter was apparently in remission, according to Green Light.
Another heart-breaking story involves a man with an enormous tumour that often bleeds on the left-hand side of his face. As a result, he hates leaving home.
“Yeah, that one was really distressing,” Donohoe agrees. “He talked about social isolation.”
It weighs heavy on the men when patients die, often managing pain at the end of their life.
“The patient stories were amazing and inspiring, but what stuck with me was Nick and Luke’s redemption stories,” Donohoe says. “They came back from great darkness to help so many people.”
Limited progress legalising medicinal cannabis in Victoria and the ACT is not enough, Donohoe argues.
“The hurdles you have to pass to get the stuff, and the price and quality of it is not great,” he says.
He also worries legalisation will lead to mass production of cannabis isolates in laboratories rather than growing it the natural way.
“Until the government can get their act together, I hope they leave these guys alone and let them do their work,” Donohoe says.
“One day CBD oil will be just like taking your vitamins.”
Green Light opens in cinemas on October 10