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Police Raid Medical Marijuana Church In Newcastle

The Church of Ubuntu says it has 2000 people on its books

02/12/2016 3:38 PM AEDT | Updated 02/12/2016 3:39 PM AEDT
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Paul Robert Burton plays music off equipment seized at the raid.

NSW Police have raided an alleged medical marijuana growing dispensary in Newcastle in a move condemned by cannabis campaigners.

The so-called Church of Ubuntu, based in Newcastle, had its medical cannabis set up raided by police on Thursday as part of a drug raid that saw 215 cannabis plants seized.

Detective Inspector Peter Mahon told told The Newcastle Herald that even if those behind the operation believed they were growing the cannabis for "medicinal purposes", it remained "a straight-out breach" of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act.

Fairfax/Simone De Peak
Rescue squad police loading equipment seized during the raid

NSW police told the Huffington Post Australia inquiries are ongoing and charges are possible.

Former Drug Reform Party candidate Karen Burge said the cannabis operation was run under the name of The Church of Ubuntu and supplies medical cannabis to 1846 people around the country.

"The police are just doing their job," she said.

"They have taken our plants, which are medicine for children. As the Church of Ubuntu we have been supplying compassionate care to thousands of families Australia wide for up to five years combined.

She said the state government and police knew about the operation.

Ms Burge said some patients had been granted "terminal condition" waivers by the state government, which were announced last year.

The church, which describes itself as not for profit, has been operating for two years.

The Church of Ubuntu has been contacted for comment. In video posted on its website, the group's secretary, Paul Robert Burton, said he believed it was a moral and ethical responsibility to supply the medical cannabis in the legal vacuum.

Australia is undergoing a shift on how it views medical marijuana, with many states, including NSW, running clinical trials for use as treatment during chemotherapy and for easing the symptoms of extreme epilepsy.

In May the Federal government announced that businesses around Australia could apply for a licence to produce cannabis legally for medicinal purposes only under the Narcotics Drugs Amendment Act 2016, which came into effect on Sunday.

The Act also allows for eligible businesses to manufacture cannabis-related products and conduct related research for medicinal uses.

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the changes would provide patients and doctors across the country with legal options to access safe and reliable medicinal cannabis for treatments.

That same month, NSW Premier Mike Baird was reportedly confronted by dying patients and their parents at a medicinal cannabis conference in Sydney and accused of moving too slowly medical marijuana trials.

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