More and more people are becoming aware of the medicinal effects of cannabis. However, not a lot of them know of its part in the history of Cannabis in Australia.
Who brought Cannabis to Australia?
The first hemp seeds arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. That marked the first European settlement in Australia at Botany Bay. This was at the request of Sir Joseph Banks, the first recorded cannabis distributor in England and Australia. During the Age of Imperialism, the hemp industry powered Britain’s fleets and economy. However, their dependence on Russia as their hemp supplier was setting them back and limiting their control over the booming industry. This was when Sir Joseph Banks proposed a solution. The solution was in the form of utilizing Australia’s great land mass for Britain’s own commercial production of hemp. However, it’s still unknown among historians whether this was actually the reason as to why Britain decided to colonise Australia.
Through the years how was Cannabis used?
For the next 150 years, hemp production in Australia continued. Cannabis consumption occurs for both recreational and medicinal uses. The latter, first introduced in the 1830’s by an Irish physician named Dr. William O’Shaughnessy. Dr. O’Shaughnessy was a physician for the British East India Company who lived in India in the early 1830’s. Whilst in India, he conducted years worth of experiments. What was his aim? To validate the locals’ claims of the medicinal uses of cannabis.
By the mid-1800s, cannabis was being used as medicine for tetanus, cholera, mental illness, rheumatism, rabies, and epilepsy. More research also prompted people to utilize cannabis as a drug to mitigate the effects of migraines, insomnia, and menstruation issues. Interestingly, Australian people also had access to medicinal cannabis cigarettes. Called Cigares de Joy they advertised to relieve symptoms of illnesses like coughing, influenza, asthma, and bronchitis.
Today, the effects of cannabis on human health is under research. Some notable discoveries include the medicinal CBD oil. Most notably helping with issues including chronic pain, inflammation, glaucoma, seizures, nausea, depression, and anxiety. CBD or Cannabidiol is a compound that can be found in cannabis. However, unlike THC, the other compound in Cannabis, CBD is non-psychoactive. Therefore, it does not provide its users with the “high” effect due to a slight difference in its chemical arrangement.
What are the past and current laws surrounding medicinal Cannabis use?
Since the arrival of the first hemp seeds in Australia, there were no recorded laws that prohibited the use of cannabis. This came as a result of Australia never considering it to be a public health issue. However, in 1914, the Harrison Act declared drug use as a crime in the United States. Cannabis. Rebranded as Marijuana in the US, reporting it to be a dangerous drug from Mexico with terrible effects. These claims existed not validated by any scientific evidence. Rather, used to instigate hate and prejudice against new Mexican immigrants.
A few years later, due to the great influence of The United States many developed countries, including Australia, signed the 1925 Geneva Convention on Opium and Other Drugs. This brought cannabis to the same level of drugs such as opium and cocaine. High restrictions are in place for the manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of these drugs. Only allowing them for medical and research purposes.
During the years following, the dissemination of anti-cannabis propaganda continued in Australia and in 1928, Victoria became the first state to pass the Poisons Act. This penalised the unauthorised use of Indian hemp. The other Australian states followed with SA passing the Dangerous Drugs Act in 1934, NSW passing the Police Offences Amendment Drug Acts in 1935, QLD with the Health Act in 1937, WA with the Proclamation under the Police Offences Drug Act in 1950, and Tasmania with the Dangerous Drugs Act in 1959.
In 1961, another convention was signed by Australia called the International Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This obliged the countries to make cannabis available for medical purposes. Decades later, in 2016, amendments were made to the Narcotic Drugs Act to legalise the production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific research purposes. However, recreational use of cannabis still remains illegal across Australia. This is with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT’s recreational use of cannabis is legal for residents over the age of 18.
As of February 1 2021, it is now legal to buy CBD oil in Australia over the counter and online, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) down scheduling low-doses of CBD oil from a Prescription Only Drug (Schedule 4) to a Pharmacist Only Drug (Schedule 3). Consumers now can purchase CBD oil without a doctor’s prescription over the counter. The approved daily dose is at 150 mg.
However, before suppliers can sell their products, the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) needs to approve them. On a federal level, amendments altered the Narcotics Drug Act (1967) by the Office of Drug Control. This means that the rule regarding purchase and usage of CBD oil is the same across all states.
Who supplies medicinal Cannabis in Australia?
In conclusion, Australia highly regulates medicinal cannabis. The country’s Therapeutic Goods Association oversees the supply of the drug. Doctors must apply to the TGA to obtain medicinal cannabis for their patients. However, access to medicinal cannabis is still subject to the laws of each state and territory. For more information on how to access medicinal cannabis, click here.
Numerous manufacturers and importers licensed under the Narcotics Drug Act 1967 produce and supply medicinal Cannabis. The list can be found here. (Please note, however, that not every manufacturer and importer can be found in this list.)
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