Medicinal Cannabis in Australia and How to Access It

DATE: Monday 4th April 2022

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Medicinal cannabis products are legal in Australia and gaining in popularity. 

There are more ways to consume cannabis than smoking, like using oro-buccal sprays (NanoCelle), capsules, tablets, and rubs. Australia offers many forms of medical marijuana if you know how to access them. 

That is why it is important to learn about the health benefits that might come with proper consumption and what treatments may be right for you. Keep reading to learn the important facts about CBD oil Australia. Here's what the article covers:

What Is Medicinal Cannabis?

Medicinal cannabis is any type of cannabis product prescribed by a doctor to treat or relieve symptoms of a medical condition. This is in contrast to recreational cannabis, which is consumed illegally, without a prescription.

Some benefits come specifically with using medical cannabis products. Since medicinal cannabis is highly regulated and the prescribed products get tested, you can be confident they are safe to use. You will know where your products come from and that they will be quality.

Even more important, many cannabis products produced for medical purposes have isolated useful cannabinoids that can increase effectiveness, or reduce side effects when compared to unregulated products. 


Active Ingredients

The active ingredients in medical marijuana are cannabinoids. There are hundreds of known cannabinoids but the two noteworthy ones are THC and CBD. These are the two most important when it comes to medicinal treatment potential. 

THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that is responsible for creating the high feeling associated with consuming marijuana products, among other medicinal properties. 

CBD is a cannabinoid called cannabidiol. It is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that might reduce the high effect THC produces while offering other medicinal benefits.


Cannabis Methods of Consumption 

Medical marijuana is provided by a doctor who can prescribe medicine and can come in a variety of different mediums. There can be different delivery methods as well as different active chemicals. The best type for you to use will depend on the medical condition you seek treatment for. 

You can self-administer cannabis orally, transdermally, or by inhalation.

Oral consumption can involve taking a pill or using an oil or a spray. This includes products like capsules, NanoCelle (oro-buccal sprays), or oils. 

Transdermal application means that the cannabis prescription is applied and absorbed through the skin. This method targets the specific area of application. These types of products include oils, lotions, suppositories, tinctures and patches or gels. 

Inhalation is the act of smoking or vaporising cannabis. This would include buds, flowers, or concentrates. This is often thought to be the most popular way to consume cannabis products but this is not the case. 


Types of Cannabis Products

Cannabis is a scheduled substance in Australia, which means it is regulated and you can't get it over the counter. The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates medicinal cannabis in Australia and is in charge of approving all applications for the use of medical cannabis. They classify cannabis under three different headings. They are:

S8- controlled drugs: This covers cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. That is the cannabis Sativa plant, any part of the plant like buds or seeds, or extracted THC. 

S4- prescription only: This covers CBD products extracted from the plant. They must contain only 2% or less of other cannabinoids. 

S8- other substances: This covers the use of pharmaceuticals. Some examples are nabiximols, dronabinol, or nabilone. 

The three types of medical cannabis available in Australia are:

  • Mainly CBD products 
  • Mainly THC products
  • Combination CBD/THC products

What is Cannabis Prescribed For?

The legalisation of medical marijuana in Australia happened in 2016, and since then the list of medical conditions approved for treatment has continued to grow.

The list can change, and conditions are not guaranteed approval for treatment by cannabis, but these are some of the conditions that have been approved for patients using cannabis in the past:

Possible Side Effects

While medical marijuana use offers many benefits, there is the possibility of negative side effects to be aware of. Using medical marijuana lessens the likelihood of severe side effects as the products are controlled and tested.

CBD only products are likely to have the least amount of side effects associated with use since they contain only 2% or less of the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC. Still, here is a list of potential side effects you should be aware of:

  • Coughs
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry eyes, mouth, throat
  • Headache
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety

If you use a product with high levels of THC, there is a possibility of experiencing more noticeable side effects like confusion, depression, feeling high, or feeling paranoid. 

This is why it is important to talk to your doctor about your specific situation. They may be able to prescribe CBD, THC, or a CBD/THC combination medication depending on the treatment goals that best match your needs.


How Do You Access Medical Cannabis?

Although medicinal cannabis is like any other prescribed medication in Australia, there are still many questions surrounding its availability and usage. The process of obtaining a medical marijuana prescription can be very confusing.

There are three access pathways for people to use when seeking a prescription for medical marijuana. A doctor, specialist, or a nurse practitioner can request permission to prescribe medical marijuana. An authorised prescriber can prescribe patients medical marijuana. Or, you can choose to take part in clinical trials.

The pathways will be similar from state to state, but you will need to check for specifics depending on where you live. For example, in Tasmania, you must get approval from a specialist.


Doctor, Specialist, or Nurse Prescription

The first option is getting a prescription from a doctor, specialist or nurse. Your general practitioner already knows your medical history and can fill out a SAS B application and send it directly to the Department of Health for approval.

They will need to provide the TGA with information through an online portal. The information will need to include a patient diagnosis and indication for which cannabis product is requested for use.

They will also need to include a clinical justification for the use of the product, as well as safety and efficacy data to support the use of the product. Lastly, they will need to include details as to how you will be monitored for adverse effects and different patient responses to treatment. 

Your doctor should hear back within 72 hours. The TGA does not send application rejections, so they will either approve the application or request more information. If they ask for more information it is up to your doctor to complete the process. 

If your application is approved you can set an appointment with your doctor to discuss your treatment program and receive your prescription. 


Authorised Prescriber Prescription

An Authorised Prescriber is a doctor who has already applied to the TGA for the authorisation to prescribe products for specific conditions.

To become an Authorised Prescriber they must meet medical experience criteria and medical cannabis experience criteria, showing a wide range of expertise in the area applying for. If they are approved to be an Authorised Prescriber they do not need to apply to the TGA each time they prescribe to a new patient. 

It can be hard to find an Authorised Prescriber (AP) in Australia as they are not listed, however, they can prescribe on the spot if they feel the treatment is appropriate. If you need any support in finding an Authorised Prescriber in Australia, you can contact our team at 02 8188 0311 or book an appointment at our virtual clinic.


Clinical Trials

The third access pathway to a medical marijuana prescription is to choose to take part in clinical trials

If this pathway interests you, first you need to find out which trials are available and talk to your doctor about taking part in one. It will be important for them to know about your medical treatment while monitoring your overall health. 

Medlab is currently conducting a clinical trial in the form of an observational study, 'The Medcare Study', investigating the safety and further efficacy of a pharmaceutical-grade oro-buccal spray for the use of cancer and non-cancer-related pain. 

The Medcare Study

Find the Best CBD Oil Australia Has to Offer

Now that you are familiar with medical cannabis in Australia, you can begin your search for the right treatment. From THC products to CBD oil, Australia is home to a range of effective treatments. 

Read the articles on our site to learn more about how you can access medical marijuana with information specific to your region.