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, as the right preparation will allow for a smooth sailing escape!
Preparation is Key!
We now know that medicinal cannabis can be prescribed by doctors in all states and territories within Australia, 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. Consequently, 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 also check that you are indeed the authorised owner of your paperwork, so carrying proof of identification is strongly advised. All in all, travelling with cannabis is a terrifying thought, however, with adequate preparation, this experience will be a seamless one.
It is also essential that whilst travelling with your medicinal cannabis, it is packaged correctly. This involves ensuring that the medication remains in its original packaging with all labels in good condition so that the substance may be easily identified (Zwar, N., 2018). Furthermore, if permitted to use a vaporiser, you must ensure this is taken on board the plane and not with your luggage (more on vaporisers later).
States and Territories Do Not Come Hand in Hand
All states and territories within Australia follow different rules and guidelines contingent on the governing body. Despite 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 graph, major differences in laws, state by state do exist:
|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 will likely lead to caution and then criminal charges will be handed out. Under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008, NSW authority is required when both supplying and prescribing cannabis, usage will only be permitted with prescriptions.
Patients must be administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Schemes to obtain medication in this state. 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 the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Specialist medical practitioners, like your GP, can 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 behind bars for the mere possession of paraphernalia (e.g. pipes) used to inhale cannabis.
Marijuana is also deemed a schedule 8 controlled drug, thus a section 18A authority is necessary to be prescribed.
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 use for medicinal purposes may be prescribed for those with:
(Williams, C. 2020)
|Tasmania: A medical cannabis controlled access scheme was created by the state government, allowing 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)
|Victoria: All medical specialists can prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients with any medical condition if deemed appropriate and have Commonwealth and state approvals. (Williams, C. 2020)
Despite these fairly loose laws, cannabis is still a schedule 8 controlled substance therefore a prescription should always be in close distance, particularly whilst travelling or unwarranted penalties will apply.
A cultivation and manufacturing license scheme was created in 2016, permitting growing and harvesting for certain individuals. (Agriculture Victoria., 2021)
Patients can not bring in medicinal products for their use, including CBD and THC substances. All cannabis for medical use must be prescribed by a medical practitioner.
Heavy penalties also apply in Western Australia if in possession or using cannabis products without your medical paperwork.
Adult use is illegal in all states within Australia except for the ACT, whereby recreational marijuana and growing marijuana in small portions was made legal 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
It is pivotal that you ensure a sufficient supply of your medication is brought along with you so that you don’t face a shortage. 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. Not only would it be frustrating having your anxiety/depression/insomnia relapse when in a foreign region, but it would also be an extreme inconvenience to find a doctor and get more of your medication prescribed interstate. On the same token, you must be cautious with the amount of medication brought along, as too much marijuana may be deemed illegal with the intent of redistribution, which is best avoided. Only a reasonable quantity should be brought along while travelling for personal use only. (Zwar, N., (2018) As a rule, supply up to six months should not be questioned by authorities, and greater quantities, however, may be troublesome.
What About a Vaporiser?
There are a plethora of ways patients may wish to ingest their medical marijuana, whether it be orally via tablets, via the use of particular CBD oils etc. Another common preference is by inhaling the substance with a vaporiser. Vaping is certainly not against the law, however, it is not prescribed by a doctor thus a grey area does exist. To avoid uncertainty in this situation, it is recommended your doctor leaves a note in writing, stating that they are aware of and approve of this method of intake. More specifically, it is ideal that your doctor includes the exact vaporiser used, as well as the model number (if known). It must also be noted that two main vaporisers are approved by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), being 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.
Within the airport scene, you must be aware that vaping does release chemicals and passive smoking is best avoided. Authorities don’t prohibit people from using their medication at the airport, however, only you are prescribed the medication and so vaping should never be done around other people. (Dowling, A., Brown, T., 2021) As a result, edibles and oils are better in public settings, however, vaping must only be done when no one else is nearby. This does not include smoking areas either, as those within smoking areas are consenting to cigarette smoke, whereas a prescribed form of marijuana is not exactly warranted. Vaping is generally a less acceptable way of taking your medical cannabis in contrast orally so the best advice is to stay away from the vape unless you have no other option.
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
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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/