Originally published by TJ Ryan, March 10 2017.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in 2017 rescheduled certain medicinal cannabis products to schedule 8 of the Poisons Standard, making the prescription of medicinal cannabis legal in Australia.
Where in Australia is medicinal marijuana legal?
Victoria was the first state in Australia to introduce legislation to legalise medicinal cannabis, but other states and territories have quickly followed:
- Victoria: Legal for use by children with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy, from early 2017: Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016. (See Health.Vic for details.)
- Queensland: Legal by prescription from specialists for use by patients with a range of conditions including MS, epilepsy, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, from March 2017: Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016. (See Queensland Health for details.)
- NSW: Legal for use by adults with end-of-life illnesses, from July 2016: Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment Regulation 2016. (See NSW Government’s Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation for details.)
- ACT: People who fall under category 6 illnesses within certain criteria as of 2017 – See ACT Health for details on what this means.
- Tasmania: Controlled Access Scheme began in 2017 to allow patients to access unregistered medicinal cannabis. No legislative changes were required in Tasmania. (See Tasmanian Department of Health for details.)
- WA: Legal by prescription from doctors under certain conditions, from November 2016: Misuse of Drugs Act 1981. (See WA Department of Health for details.)
- SA: Legal by prescription from doctors under certain conditions, from November 2016. (See SA Health for details.)
- NT: The Australian Government Department of Health regulates therapeutic medicines containing cannabinoids through the Therapeutic Goods Administration – access is restricted to patients with certain medical conditions (See NT Government or Department of Health for details.)
Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal across all federal, state, and territory laws in Australia.
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What is medicinal marijuana used to treat?
Medicinal cannabis (commonly called medicinal marijuana) is proven to be scientifically effective in treating certain conditions:
|Effects of medicinal cannabis||Conditions|
|Pain management||· Cancer
· Neuropathic pain
· Multiple Sclerosis
· Spinal cord injury
· Terminal illnesses, palliative care, and end-of-life conditions
|Epilepsy management||· Treatment-resistant epilepsy|
|Slows joint degeneration||· Arthritis|
|Improved movement||· Multiple Sclerosis|
|Appetite stimulation for weight gain||· HIV/AIDS
· Crohn’s disease
|Reduce nausea and vomiting||· Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy|
|Slows degeneration of neural pathways||· Alzheimer’s Disease|
· Sleep disorders
|Source: Medicinal Cannabis in Australia: Science, Regulation & Industry, 2016.|
Where can patients get medicinal marijuana?
Importantly, in every state and territory, patients must ask their doctors or specialists about the possibility of using medicinal cannabis in their case. If a patient is eligible, the medical practitioner may make an application to the government for access to medicinal cannabis.
With a prescription, medicinal cannabis products will be able from a pharmacist. Doctors must apply for approval from both the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration and the State Health Department before they can prescribe an unregistered cannabis-based product.
Currently, there is no legal product available in Australia. The only legal access is through clinical trials. There have been two recent clinical trials involving the use of medicinal cannabis: in Queensland for children with epilepsy, and in NSW for children with epilepsy and cancer patients suffering nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
Do you smoke medicinal marijuana?
Usually not. In Australia, Medicinal cannabis is delivered in the form of diluted cannabis oil, which is typically administered via an oral spray, drops of oil placed under the tongue, tinctures, capsules, and vaporisable liquids.
Can anyone grow medicinal marijuana?
Federal legislation in Australia now allows people or organisations to apply for a licence to cultivate medicinal cannabis with the Commonwealth Government’s Office of Drug Control.
They will have to pass a “fit and proper person test” and prove that their crop growing site is secure.
As of February 2018, there were several medicinal cannabis cultivation companies listed on the ASX, including:
- Algae.Tec (ASX:AEB)
- Atlas Pearls (ASX:ATP)
- Auscann Group Holdings (ASX:AC8)
- Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX: BOT)
- Creso Pharma (ASX:CPH)
- Esense-Lab (ASX:ESE)
- MGC Pharmaceuticals (ASX:MXC)
- Roto-Gro International (ASX:RGI)
- Zelda Therapeutics (ASX:ZLD)
This does not constitute investment advice. Canstar is an information provider, and in giving you information about investment products Canstar is not making any suggestion or recommendation to you about a particular product.
The federal legislation also legalises manufacturing cannabis, but this activity will only be carried out by authorised chemists.
Medicinal cannabis is also currently being grown and manufactured in state government facilities in an undisclosed location in Victoria. Yes, you heard right – government-grown cannabis.
Is medicinal cannabis dangerous?
The most recent medical trials of “synthetic” cannabis in children with epilepsy used a synthetic drug, cannabidiol, which comes in a liquid form. Austin Health’s Professor Ingrid Scheffer says the drug does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that is used to get high.
What if you’re not eligible for medicinal cannabis?
For those who are not eligible for medicinal marijuana, there are endless other legal treatment options to consider. Talk to your doctor about what clinical trials may be covered by your health fund.
Health insurance for pain management needs in particular is something that your health fund may cover. Depending on your choice of policy and level of cover, Extras Cover policies often offer a benefit towards the cost of non-PBS medications, physiotherapy care, and benefits for those who are on a Chronic Disease Management Plan (CDMP).