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Marijuana movie triggers change in NSW law

AAP logoAAP 28/10/2016 Danielle McGrane

Helen Kapalos' documentary examining the medicinal use of marijuana, A Life of Its Own, has already brought about positive change.

In it, the former Sunday Night journalist explores how the administration of medicinal marijuana can bring relief to children suffering from epilepsy or the many with chronic illnesses including MS and cancer.

It's been a passion project for her after giving up her TV role to pursue the cause, so thankfully it's paying off in a way she hoped it would.

"When it screened in Sydney at the Hot Docs festival the premier actually came," Kapalos told AAP.

Mike Baird attended the screening and heard some personal stories from members of the audience during a Q and A, which caused him to make amendments to the medicinal cannabis compassionate use scheme

One mother described how her daughter, who suffered with epilepsy and had 250 seizures a day, couldn't get access to medicinal cannabis.

In Kapalos' documentary, cannabis was shown to have profound effects on many children suffering with epilepsy when they ingested it through oil-based oral drops.

"Medicinal cannabis is actually helping in many cases reduce seizures from 500 a day to one or two a week or one a month," Kapalos said.

It was a Sunday Night story about cancer patient Daniel Haslam which initially inspired Kapalos' documentary. Haslam was forced to source marijuana illegally to treat his terminal illness.

His case led to massive changes to the access of medicinal marijuana in NSW in particular.

"As a direct result of that, there was a crime provision that was amended so people couldn't get arrested for using it for terminal illness," Kapalos said.

But there is still further to go and the documentary and that screening in particular have already started the ball rolling on more changes.

"It's really complex, there are all these conditions that don't fit neatly into the box and so as a result of that screening the premier did actually make some adjustments to the compassionate access scheme so that was fantastic. There was actually an outcome from that," she said.

"I've been in contact with his (Baird's) office and they're keen for one of the parliamentarians to host it and the premier is talking about attending that as well."

A Life Of Its Own has been released via cinema on demand which allows any one in Australia to hire their local cinema for free and sell tickets to one-off screenings, and that's been happening around the country.

"People that host it get a percentage of the sales and in some of the areas that are hosting it I'm giving my complete commission," Kapalos said.

"Its really nice to be able to give something back."

*For session times go to demand.film - if you can't find a location near you, you can host your own screening.

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