'Cannabis oil' doc questions safety of 'black market drugs'

By Sam McKeith

THE trial of a deregistered medical practitioner facing serious drug-related offences has heard of the potential dangers of treating people with "black market cannabis". 

Andrew Katelaris, 63, is on currently on trial in the NSW District Court in Sydney for allegedly manufacturing and supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and dealing with proceeds of crime. 

The charges, which he is defending, flow from a 2017 police search on a Sydney home a few days after Mr Katelaris allegedly showed a Channel 7 reporter a cannabis oil lab. 

The accused former doctor, who was deregistered in the mid-2000s and is a long-time advocate of medical marijuana and industrial hemp, is representing himself at the trial. 

On Monday, the court heard evidence from a Sydney neurologist who said medical cannabis had been used to treat "very specific" types of epilepsy, including "dravet syndrome". 

"Those trials have been done and published with a significant result," the crown witness told the court. 

However, he said there was a difference between medicinal cannabis, which involved "quality assurance", and what he termed the "black market" variety of the drug. 

"We don't know what's in the cannabis sourced from the black market," the neurologist said. 

"We really haven't got a clue what we're dealing with." 

The neurologist said: "It is removed from anything that's clinically acceptable". 

Under cross examination from Mr Katelaris, the medical expert was asked if he equated black market cannabis with "illegal" cannabis. 

"I'm not an expert in the black market, I'm a neurologist," the witness replied. 

He was also challenged by Mr Katelaris on his knowledge of previous clinical trials, the "death rate" of those with "intractable epilepsy" and how that condition was defined. 

"Can he be provided with a dictionary, it's not a joke," Mr Katelaris said at one point. 

They also clashed on the definition of the phrase "anecdotal report" but the neurologist agreed with Mr Katelaris that there were "huge" numbers of children with intractable epilepsy in Australia. 

The trial has previously heard that when police raided Mr Katelaris's alleged lab they found about 8kg of cannabis oil and 10kg of cannabis leaf in addition to $10,000 cash. 

Officers also seized items including several white containers filled with "green vegetable matter", a silver drum and fluorescent lights from the attic set-up.

The former doctor is defending himself at the trial on the basis of medical necessity. 

The trial continues before Judge Clive Jeffreys. - NewsRegional