In January 2017 Queenslander Steve Peek met with the state's premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and chief health officer Jeannette Young to discuss his daughter's use of medicinal cannabis.
Steve's 9-year-old daughter, Suli, suffered from uncontrollable epilepsy. After trying multiple pharmaceutical options, Steve decided to try cannabis oil and found it greatly reduced Suli's seizures and improved her quality of life.
When medicinal cannabis was legalised in 2016 Steve thought it would mean he could stop using an illegal product on his daughter, but found the state's access schemes and pathways towards medicinal cannabis incredibly hard to manage. Desperate and without a clear way to good health for his daughter, Peek sought a meeting with the Queensland premier to ask for amnesty.
In January, Steve managed to finally wrangle a meeting after the premier was put on the spot about avoiding him on ABC Radio Brisbane.
"I'm more than happy to meet with him," the premier said in January. "This is such an important issue."
The next week, Steve met with Palaszczuk, as well as Queensland's chief medical officer Jeannette Young and Epilepsy Australia's Carol Ireland. Steve explained he was struggling to find a legal medicine up to the standard of his black-market product.
During the meeting, Steve alleges the premier and Jeanette Young offered to test his black market oil and find him a legal alternative that would then be made available to his daughter, for free, for the rest of her life.
Carol Ireland of Epilepsy Action Australia backed up Steve's claim to BuzzFeed News. "He was so excited when leaving that meeting," she said. "He had been working for so long and thought he had finally found a solution."
However, Peek says premier Palaszczuk and Young never met with him again.
Peek says both Young and Palaszczuk have rejected the idea that this commitment was made to him, despite multiple letters from Carol Ireland asking for a written explanation of how they planned to source new oil for Suli Peek going unanswered.
One two-page email sent from Ireland to Jeanette Young lists in great detail all of the promises allegedly made to Peek. These included that the Department of Health would:
- Analyse Peek's black market product.
- Seek a bio-equivalent regulated cannabis product from an international supplier to replace Peek's illegal product.
- Cover all expenses of importing on compassionate grounds.
- Help Peek and his daughter's doctors submit applications.
- Extend the offer to all Queensland families currently using unregulated cannabis products.
- The government would provide assistance in meeting with these families.
"This is a very compassionate move and a generous offer of assistance," wrote Ireland.
Later, Steve sent an email to Palaszczuk's office asking for an explanation on why the offer that was made to him never came to fruition. He received a response from the premier's director of policy, who told him to contact Queensland's minister for health, Cameron Dick. "Thank you for taking the time to contact the premier" read the email, which BuzzFeed News has seen. Peek says that after contacting the minister for health he was referred to the medicinal cannabis board in Queensland. "It's ridiculous," he told BuzzFeed News.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, chief health officer Young said every effort had been made to assist the Peek family in finding a doctor to prescribe medicinal cannabis.
Steve Peek left a meeting with Queensland officials in January thinking he had finally found a solution to his daughter's suffering. Instead, he was forced to use black market oil until his supply ran out.
Steve's daughter, Suli, died in October.
"It's not fair," Steve said. "My daughter died a criminal and she didn't deserve that. They never even gave her a chance."
Palaszczuk did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Brad Esposito at email@example.com.
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