An ex-doctor in Australia has sucessfully defended himself in a landmark medical cannabis trial, arguing that his unauthorized treatments with cannabis compounds were of “medical necessity” to the patients he served.
Andrew Katelaris, who lost his medical license in 2005 under a previous case in which he prescribed cannabis in Australia, was acquitted last week after choosing to defend himself in the case before a jury.
Gripping testimony of parents
“The evidence from the parents of epileptic children was just too overwhelming” for the jury to convict him, Katelaris told the UK’s Daily Mail after he was found not guilty at the end of the four-week trial.
Katelaris, who called the parents of sick children as well as medical experts to give testimony, was charged after his May 2017 arrest following a police raid on his Sydney home during which authorities found 8 kg of cannabis oil, 10 kg of cannabis leaf, and $10,000 cash.
Known as “Dr Pot,” Katelaris said immediately after the trial that he will continue to treat sick children with cannabis oil even though it could mean subsequent arrest.
‘What can you do?’
“What can you do? If I’m genuine, and I am, in wanting to save childrens’ lives, it would be irresponsible not to continue,” Katelaris said. “The idea is they (authorities) will wise up and stop arresting people who are obviously medically focused.”
He said following the trial he hopes the outcome will advance Australian authorities’ thinking about the legality of cannabis-based medical applications.
Katelaris said he purposefully provoked police into arresting him so he could gain a landmark court victory that could serve as a precedent.
‘Crusader for the cause’
Australian Supreme Court justices have described Katelaris as a “crusader for the cause of legalization of cannabis for medical use” and “not a typical drug dealer.”
Despite government statements that have declared cannabis legal for medical use in Australia, access to such treatments is restricted to that produced by pharmaceutical companies under doctors’ prescriptions.