In recent years, we've seen a huge shift in how we view cannabis and medicinal cannabis products. And with Australia recently legalising medicinal cannabis products for certain medical conditions, patients now have more options to help treat their medical conditions. But while medical marijuana is legal in Australia, taking medicinal cannabis can be complicated.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, TGA, has made significant reforms to its restrictions on most medicinal cannabis products. That said, there are still rules in place to control the distribution of medicinal cannabis. So, we've compiled a comprehensive guide to getting medicinal cannabis products in Australia.
This guide will teach you how to get medical cannabis products in Australia through licensed health professionals. That way, you know exactly how to access medicinal cannabis products that have only become available recently.
Here at Chronic Therapy, we'll connect you to a professional who can prescribe medicinal cannabis products for certain conditions. We're dedicated to helping patients access the medication they need and access all the therapeutic benefits of using medical cannabis products.
- Are Medical Cannabis Products Legal in Australia?
- How Are Medicinal Cannabis Products Scheduled?
- How Can I Take Medicinal Cannabis in Australia?
- How Prescribing Medicinal Cannabis Has Changed in Australia
- Which Doctors Are Allowed to Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis Products?
- Barriers to Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia
- Buying Medicinal Cannabis in Australia (CBD and THC oil)
- Is Medical Cannabis covered by Medicare?
- Getting Medicinal Cannabis Products in Australia Through a Telehealth Doctor
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1. Are Medical Cannabis Products Legal in Australia?
As of 2016, the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia has reformed its policies on medical marijuana. These reforms made it easier for eligible patients struggling with various medical conditions to access medicinal cannabis. However, you can't just have any medical condition to access medicinal cannabis.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has only allowed the use of medicinal cannabis products for certain medical conditions. Additionally, not all doctors are willing to prescribe medicinal cannabis, which can make it harder to access despite the reforms. This can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of the benefits of medicinal cannabis as well as the negative connotations of using cannabis.
In Australia, a doctor must be an Authorised Prescriber to issue a cannabis prescription during a consultation. All Chronic Therapy doctors are Authorised Prescribers for all 5 categories of cannabis medications and all of the individual cannabis products that fall within those categories.
Doctors that are not Authorised Prescribers must apply to the Department of Health on a per-script basis using the Special Access Scheme. It normally takes approximately 3 business days from the application before the doctor is granted permission to write a cannabis prescription for their patient.
Unfortunately, most doctors do not do this on the day that they are granted approval, which is why the industry average is 3 weeks to receive cannabis medications after a consultation. Chronic Therapy doctors are Authorised Prescribers and help their patients receive medications in less than one week (from consultation).
Significant evidence has shown that medicinal cannabis, particularly specific cannabinoids like CBD and THC, can be used to treat the symptoms of various health conditions. This is a primary reason for the shift in rules regarding the use of medicinal cannabis in Australia. However, only medicinal cannabis products are legal in Australia, so recreational cannabis, like cannabis Sativa flowers, is still illegal.
Taking and growing cannabis for recreational use is still illegal in Australia. There are very real consequences to taking cannabis illegally if you don't have an underlying medical condition. To make medical cannabis legal in Australia, you need to have a prescription and only use specific products with certain cannabinoids, which likely won't have the same psychoactive effects as recreational cannabis.
2. How Are Medicinal Cannabis Products Scheduled?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has classifications or schedules for different medicinal cannabis products. This distinguishes the different types of medical cannabis available in Australia and their prescribed uses. That way, it's easier to classify different medicinal cannabis products and set rules and regulations around them.
The Australian Government Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration classify medicinal cannabis into four schedules which are:
- Schedule 3 Medicinal Cannabis Products
- Schedule 4 Medicinal Cannabis Products
- Schedule 8 Medicinal Cannabis Products
- Schedule 9 Medicinal Cannabis Products
- Schedule 3 Medicinal Cannabis Products
Schedule 3 Medicinal cannabis products in Australia are over-the-counter (OTC) medicinal cannabis products such as CBD. To be classified as a schedule 3 medicinal cannabis product, the medication needs to meet the following criteria:
- Be administered orally
- Have a maximum dosage of 150mg of CBD a day
- At least 98% of the medicinal cannabis should be CBD (cannabidiol) and have no more than 1% THC, which is also derived from the cannabis plant
- Should contain a maximum of 30 days' worth of medication
- Must have child-proof packaging and only be purchased by persons over 18 years old
Originally, the maximum daily dose was set at 60mg. However, after many experts pointed out that patients would not reap any therapeutic benefits with that amount, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) changed the maximum to 150mg.
While there are guidelines for OTC medicinal cannabis products, there are currently no available OTC medical canabis products in Australia. This is because pharmaceutical companies need to conduct multiple tests and clinical trials before getting approval from the federal government.
These clinical trials are expensive and can last years. Currently, the only medicinal cannabis products that may fall under schedule 3 classification are set to hit the counters in 2023.
- Schedule 4 Medicinal Cannabis Products
Schedule 4 medicinal cannabis products are used to treat symptoms of various medical conditions and are used for different medical purposes. However, to access these pharmaceutical products, patients need to be prescribed the medicine by a doctor.
To classify as a schedule 4 medicinal cannabis product, here are the guidelines of the Department of Health and the TGA:
- It must have 98% or more CBD
- Can have no more than 2% of other cannabinoids, such as CBD
- Schedule 8 Medicinal Cannabis Products
This category is for medicinal cannabis products that don't meet the standards of schedule 3 or schedule 4. Other drugs that are examples of schedule 4 medication are Ritalin and Diazepam. Medicinal cannabis products that fall under this scheduling are controlled and may only be prescribed if other medicines and treatments are insufficient for their medical conditions.
Certain schedule 8 medicinal cannabis products may be prescribed as an alternative to opioids for people with chronic nerve pain. However, not all doctors can prescribe medicinal cannabis products under this classification.
- Schedule 9 Medicinal Cannabis Products
These cannabis products are specifically used for research purposes. They are under a special access scheme, and you may only obtain these cannabis products for research. These studies look at compounds called cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant.
Currently, other cannabinoids like CBG are undergoing comprehensive studies and a systematic review to reveal their potential health benefits and how they can treat certain medical conditions when other medications aren't working.
3. How Can I Take Medicinal Cannabis in Australia?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration states that medicinal cannabis should be vaped when in flower form. This ensures that patients control their cannabis use and only take the prescribed amount. When smoking cannabis, it can be hard to control the dosage.
Additionally, smoked cannabis has negative health effects on the lungs. So, when taking medicinal cannabis flowers, it's best to vape them. That way, you get all the benefits of smoking cannabis without the same carcinogens that you may inhale through smoking cannabis. Smoking has many adverse effects and is not advisable when taking medicinal cannabis.
4. How Prescribing Medicinal Cannabis Has Changed in Australia
When originally made legal, prescribing medicinal cannabis was hard. At the time, doctors were only allowed to recommend one specific brand when prescribing medicinal cannabis. But in 2021, the rules changed, and now patients had the ability to choose the brand of their medicinal cannabis.
Most medicinal cannabis products are manufactured by different companies and offered at varied price points. This change allows more medical freedom for patients as some companies would come up with a scheme wherein doctors and telehealth professionals were incentivised to prescribe one specific medicinal cannabis product.
Now, you can choose whatever brand of medicinal cannabis you want once you obtain the prescription. This is one of the signs that the TGA is shifting its views on medical cannabis treatments and is allowing more freedom for medical practitioners and patients that need the treatment.
The old system put medical practitioners in a tight situation. Because of the incentives in place to only recommend one specific brand or medicinal cannabis product, it made it harder to access the medication that the patient needed.
At Chronic Therapy, we're taking steps to ensure that you can access medical canabis and marijuana products to help with your condition. Our goal is to provide all our patients with high-quality medical marjuana products at the lowest possible price. That way, those with terminal illnesses and other conditions that require medical cannabis have an easier time accessing their medication.
You can book your pre-screening on our website, which is all done online. Once our health professionals determine that you need medicinal cannabis, we will send a digital prescription. You can use this digital prescription to buy medical cannabis products designed to treat your symptoms.
You can use our prescription to purchase medicinal cannabis at any licensed pharmacy. With Chronic Therapy, it will be easier to obtain cannabis for medical use that you can use for various conditions from chronic pain, anxiety, arthritis, and more.
5. Which Doctors Are Allowed to Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis Products?
Any doctor in Australia registered under AHPRA can legally prescribe medicinal cannabis under the special access scheme (SAS). Doctors using the SAS pathway need to submit a request with the Department of Health on a per-patient basis before they are allowed to write each prescription. Approval from the Department of Health normally takes around 3 business days.
All of the doctors working with Chronic Therapy are Authorised Prescribers, meaning that they can write prescriptions for cannabis medications during the teleconsultation (without having to apply to the Department of Health). This allows Chronic Therapy patients to go from consultation to having medication delivered in less than a week (while the industry average is 3 weeks).
While any registered doctor may prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients, not all will be willing to do that. This is because medical marijuana is fairly new, and many professionals are hesitant to prescribe the medication to patients. Even if numerous studies have shown the potential of medical cannabis, it will take some time before we eliminate the negative stigma and connotations around cannabis.
We understand that patients needing medical cannabis may have difficulty finding a doctor to prescribe it to them. That's why our team at Chronic Therapy can connect you to the right doctors who can assess your condition and determine if medical cannabis is the right option for you. If it is, we'll even help you purchase the medication online and have it sent to your home.
6. Barriers to Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia
While medicinal cannabis is currently legal in Australia, and you can use these products instead of other medications, obtaining these products can be difficult. There are many barriers in place that prevent patients from receiving the medicine they need. Some of these barriers include:
- 1. Finding a Doctor
- Medicinal cannabis is fairly new, and many doctors aren't familiar with the prescribing process (Special Access pathway). Many doctors are hesitant to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients as they are unfamiliar with the medication. They are unsure how to dose the medication as well as when to prescribe it and how the active ingredients can treat various conditions.
- Additionally, different states and territories in Australia have their own rules and regulations around medicinal cannabis. So, ensuring that you live in a territory that allows prescribing medicinal cannabis to patients before looking for a doctor is important.
- On top of that, there is still a negative stigma around the use of cannabis, even if there is evidence that taking medicinal cannabis can be beneficial for neuropathic pain and other conditions. While further research is still required until we get the full picture, many experts believe cannabis use can be beneficial for certain medical conditions.
- The stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevents some doctors from prescribing it. Chronic Therapy can connect you with an Authorised Prescriber for cannabis medications. Our doctors understand the use cases for medical marijuana and whether or not they should prescribe it to you.
- 2. A Hard Time Accessing Medicinal Cannabis Products
- Obtaining a medicinal cannabis prescription for your medical condition is only half the battle. Very few pharmacies in Australia sell medical cannabis products, even to people with prescriptions. On top of that, the market has seen numerous shortages that have made it harder for patients to get their hands on this much-needed medicine.
- As mentioned earlier, some patients have still been prescribed a specific brand of medication. If this brand isn't available at the pharmacy, then they won't be able to get an alternative option, even if it has the same active ingredients and use cases.
- Another reason accessing medicinal cannabis can be hard for patients is the price. If patients are stuck with a singular brand that's out of their price range, they may not be able to afford the medication
- We're looking to fix all these issues and help you navigate the barriers to accessing medical cannabis here at Chronic Therapy. Not only will you find a doctor to help you get your prescription, but we also can help you find the exact medication you need at a fair price. Once you place your order, all you have to do is wait for the medication to arrive at your door!
7. Buying Medicinal Cannabis in Australia (CBD and THC oil)
Medicinal cannabis in Australia can be expensive. These medications can do wonders for a person's health and well-being. But since the prices can be so high, not everyone can afford the medication. This creates an unfair environment that we want to correct.
Currently, the industry is set up so that the medication price often doesn't correlate to the product. It is common to find cannabis oils with lower concentrations of CBD and THC that are slightly cheaper to purchase, but are often 50-100% more expensive when comparing the cents paid per milligram for the active ingredient (CBD/THC).
This is why it's important to look at how much you pay per mg or gram of medicinal cannabis in Australia. But if you get your medicinal cannabis through Chronic Therapy, we assure you that you will get exactly what you need at a fair price.
One of our goals is to make medical canabis more accessible to anyone who needs it. These medications have been used to treat multiple sclerosis and chronic pain and create a better quality of life for many patients. We believe it's unfair that it can be hard for people to get their hands on medical marijuana, which is why we've created a very easy process for obtaining medical cannabis in Australia.
8. Is Medical Cannabis covered by Medicare?
When buying medical cannabis, patients will likely have to pay the full price whenever they buy medicine. This is because no medical cannabis products are covered under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, which can make medication more affordable for the people that need them the most. This can be a detriment for many patients, and many people hope that the government will soon subsidise these products. That way, some of the weight is taken off the patient's shoulders, and they will have an easier time accessing medication.
9. Getting Medicinal Cannabis Products in Australia Through a Telehealth Doctor
When buying medical cannabis products in Australia, you need to get a prescription from a doctor. Currently, all medical cannabis options in Australia are only accessible if you have a prescription, as the OTC options are only set to hit the market in late 2023. Instead of going to a doctor's office to get a prescription, you can start the process at home through a telehealth doctor.
Here on the Chronic Therapy website, we have a Free Online Pre Screening. for anyone interested in using medicinal cannabis for health conditions. We have an online questionnaire created by a team of health professionals which can accurately screen patients and see if they're eligible for cannabis treatments. Once you submit your questionnaire and we deem you to be eligible for medicinal cannabis, you can then book an online consultation with Chronic Therapy health professional.
You don't have to leave your home to book your consultation with us. Since many people that need medicinal cannabis may have a hard time leaving their homes, we made sure that you can get everything done online.
After the online consultation, we will send you an electronic prescription you can use when purchasing cannabis online. To ensure you get the best prices, we highly encourage our patients to compare different prices of various products. That way, you rest assured that you don't end up paying too much for your medication.
The goal of Chronic Therapy is to make sure all patients can safely and legally obtain legal cannabis that's affordable and effective. We're also here to ensure you don't have difficulty getting medical cannabis. That's why our entire process is online, and once you purchase your medication, all you have to do is wait for it to arrive at your door!Book Consultation