Travelling to and from Australian states with your medicinal marijuana may be a frightening thought, as possession is one crime. But, travelling and importing is another, resulting in overwhelming penalties. One shall not fear when travelling with their prescribed marijuana. However, the right preparation will allow for a smooth sailing escape! Here’s your guide to travelling in Australia with medicinal cannabis.
When Travelling in Australia with Medicinal Cannabis Preparation is Key!
Doctors can prescribe medicinal cannabis in all Australian states and territories. But, whilst travelling, if we fail to plan, then we’re planning to fail. It is still very early days when it comes to Australia and cannabis; thus, authorities are unlikely to be familiar with the dealings of such issues that may arise. Further, those planning on travelling interstate with cannabis must always carry a prescription with them to ensure their medication is not mistaken for a schedule 8 controlled drug. (Dowling, A., Brown, T., 2021) It is further recommended that those wishing to cross borders with their medication are to bring a letter written by their doctor, outlining what was prescribed and for what condition this will be treating. Authorities may check that you are the authorised owner of your paperwork. So, it’s advised to carry proof of identification when travelling in Australia with medicinal cannabis.
In short, travelling with cannabis is a terrifying thought, however, with adequate preparation, this experience will be a seamless one.
Packaging your medicinal cannabis is essential whilst travelling. Ensure that the medication remains in its original packaging with all labels in good condition. This way, identifying the substance is easier (Zwar, N., 2018). Furthermore, take your vaporiser on board the plane not with your luggage if permitted to use a vaporiser.
States and Territories Do Not Come Hand in Hand
All states and territories within Australia follow different rules and guidelines contingent to the governing body. However, most medicinal marijuana substances being classified under schedule 8 or schedule 4, every state has different procedures regarding the provision and confiscation of cannabis, medicinal or not.
According to the following table, major differences in laws, state by state do exist when travelling in Australia with medicinal cannabis:
Australian Capital Territory:
Decriminalisation of marijuana means that those found using or possessing cannabis are no longer named ‘criminals’ and are not given a criminal record. Despite this fact, medical prescription laws surrounding CBD and THC oils are still in place. (Williams, C. (2020)
Marijuana use for medicinal purposes may be prescribed for those with:
(Williams, C. (2020)
New South Wales:
Usage is criminalised in this state. First time offences are likely to lead to a caution and then criminal charges will be handed out. NSW authority is required under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008, when both supplying and prescribing cannabis, usage is only permitted with prescriptions.
To obtain medication in this state, patients must be administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Schemes. It is illegal to possess, cultivate or supply cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act, so harsh penalties also apply here as it is a schedule 8 drug. (Williams, C. 2020)
Northern Territory is, however, looking to decriminalise marijuana similar to the ACT.
As of yet, it is highly recommended against travelling interstate with unprescribed marijuana as penalties well outweigh the risks associated.
Sativex is the only medicinal cannabis substance registered under Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Specialist medical practitioners, like your GP, have the ability to prescribe need not approval from the state or Therapeutic Goods Act. (Williams, C., 2020)
Fines and penalties are remarkably severe in this state, with a possible two years of time behind bars for the mere possession of paraphernalia (e.g. pipes) used to inhale cannabis.
To prescribe marijuana a section 18A authority is necessary as marijuana is a schedule 8 controlled drug.
Medicinal cannabis can also only be prescribed to those two months after treatment or just before treatment when a schedule 8 drug has already been prescribed for longer than two months. Two exceptions are for those who are dependent on drugs and are commencing treatment, or for those over the age of 70. (Williams, C., 2020).
Marijuana may be prescribed medicinally for those with:
(Williams, C. 2020)
The state government created a medical cannabis controlled access scheme. Moreover, the scheme allows relevant specialists the ability to prescribe cannabis in some circumstances, where conventional therapy was unsuccessful. (Williams, C. 2020)
Possession, cultivation and supply of marijuana is a criminal offence. Always carry your prescription with you if you are wishing to travel to or around Tasmania with your plant product. (Tasmanian Government., 2021)
All medical specialists are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients with any medical condition if deemed appropriate and have Commonwealth and state approvals. (Williams, C. 2020)
In schedule 8 controlled substance, cannabis is still a controlled substance despite fairly loose laws. As a result, a prescription should always be in close distance, particularly whilst travelling or unwarranted penalties will apply.
In 2016, permitting growing and harvesting for certain individuals was a cultivation and manufacturing license scheme (Agriculture Victoria., 2021).
Patients can not bring in medicinal products for their own use, including CBD and THC substances. A medical practitioner must medically prescribe medicinal cannabis of all varieties.
Heavy penalties also apply in Western Australia if in possession or using cannabis products without your medical paperwork.
Except in the ACT, adult use is illegal in all states within Australia. Recreational marijuana and growing marijuana in the ACT in small portions legalised in 2019. Other than that, all other states will require a prescription, especially when travelling, as importing drugs into other states/territories is a major criminal offence, along with possession, usage and cultivation.
Always Ensure Adequate Supply
To not face a shortage, bring along a sufficient supply of your medication with you. For instance, when travelling interstate and across borders, the last thing you want is to run out of your supply of medicinal cannabis, and for your illnesses to reach the surface. So, not only would it be frustrating having your anxiety/depression/insomnia relapse when in a foreign region, it would also be an extreme inconvenience to find a doctor and get more of your medication prescribed interstate. On the other hand, bringing too much marijuana may be deemed illegal with the intent of redistribution. So be cautious with your amount when travelling in Australia with medicinal cannabis.
Bring only a reasonable quantity when travelling for personal use only (Zwar, N., (2018). So, as a rule, authorities should not question up to six months supply. Greater quantities may be troublesome.
What About a Vaporiser?
Overall there are a plethora of ways patients may wish to ingest their medical marijuana. That is to say, whether it be orally via tablets, via use of particular CBD oils etc. Further, another common preference is by inhaling the substance with a vaporiser. To clarify, a doctor doesn’t prescribe it but it isn’t acting against the law to vape. Therefore, a grey area does exist. Moreover, recommended your doctor to leave a note in writing, stating they’re aware and approve this method of intake to avoid uncertainty. More specifically, it is ideal that your doctor includes the exact vaporiser used, as well as the model number (if known).
The Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) approves two main vaporisers. Therefore, those are the Volcano Medic and the Mighty Medic (Dowling, A., Brown, T., 2021). Despite other vaporisers usually not being too problematic, it is safest to stick to one of these two options.
So, within the airport scene, vaping does release chemicals and passive smoking, best avoided. In short, authorities don’t prohibit people from using their medication at the airport. But, the prescribed medication is only yours. Above all, you should not vape around other people (Dowling, A., Brown, T., 2021). As a result, edibles and oils are better in public settings. In addition, you can only vape when no one else is nearby. However, this does not include smoking areas either, as those within smoking areas are consenting to cigarette smoke. Subsequently, vaping is generally a less acceptable way of taking your medical cannabis. So the best advice is to stay away from the vape unless you have no other option.
If you have any further questions, make sure to check out our Frequently Asked Questions!
Travelling in Australia with Medicinal Cannabis References:
Agriculture Victoria. (2021) Medicinal Cannabis, retrieved from: https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/crops-and-horticulture/cannabis-in-victoria/medicinal-cannabis#h2-0
Cannabis For Epilepsy (2018) Travelling With Medicinal Cannabis, retrieved from: https://www.c4e.com.au/learn-about-medicinal-cannabis/travelling-with-medicinal-cannabis/
Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation. (2018) Travel in Australia, retrieved from: https://www.medicinalcannabis.nsw.gov.au/patients/travel
Dowling, A., Brown, T. (2021) Travelling With Medical Cannabis in Australia (Locally), retrieved from: https://honahlee.com.au/articles/travelling-medical-cannabis-locally-australia/#vape
Tasmanian Government (2021) Medical Cannabis, retrieved from: http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/psbtas/medicinal_cannabis
Williams, C. (2020) How to Travel With Medical Marijuana in Australia, retrieved from: https://www.cannabisplace.com.au/travelling-with-medical-marijuana-australia/
Wolfe, J. (2019) How to Travel With Medical Marijuana, retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/31/travel/traveling-with-medical-marijuana.html
Zwar, N. (2018) Travelling With Medicines in 2018, retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6091776/