In many states and territories in Australia, approval, and permission are required by medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients.
According to the Schedule of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP or ‘Poisons Standard’), the rules may vary depending on the states and territories. To further know more about your state and territory click here
Is Medicinal Cannabis legal in Australia?
In 2016, Australia made medical cannabis legal in most of the states and territories. The popularity has grown since then.
What is the difference between Legal Medical Cannabis and Green Market Cannabis?
Therapeutic Goods Administration (THA) regulates medical cannabis in Australia. High-quality standards must be met to be prescribed and sold. The distinguishing factor between legal cannabis and the green market is consistency and quality. While legally purchasing medical cannabis, there are no plant growth regulators (PGR) involved which makes the product consistent. Patients must know that all medical cannabis in Australia should meet the TGA’s guidelines (TGO93 and TGO100) which need to be locally grown and manufactured to meet the requirements. Imported products must meet a certain criterion. Local suppliers and manufacturers must meet Goods Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards which is one of the most important frameworks as it records how companies grow, manufacture, and produce products.
Medical practitioners who regularly prescribe medical cannabis, now understand the process and their patient’s medical history.
What is the Process?
To get access to medical cannabis one must meet certain criteria and follow a process.
Step 1: Eligibility
If you are suffering from a chronic condition (lasts longer than 3 months) and have tried other forms of treatments that have not been effective or cause unbearable side effects and pain, you meet the eligibility criteria to get medical cannabis for your treatment. Meditation, getting help from a psychiatrist, or any physical therapy counts as treatment.
Step 2: Costs
The costs are divided into two parts:
GP costs vary significantly. It is recommended to calculate costs based on ‘first-year’ cost as you will have an initial appointment, appointment after approval, and finally follow-ups. Some GPs or clinics also charge an appointment fee or application fee. Roughly a minimum of 5 appointments per year is required.
If thorough research is done, one must look at the price per milligram of cannabinoids and not just the product price. Product prices are often misleading. The cheapest full-spectrum CBD in Australia is $0.07 per mg. It ranges from $0.07 up to $1 per mg. This is different from the product price which ranges from $60 and can go up to $650. Flower prices are expensive as it ranges from $0.10 to $0.30 per mg. Depending on the intake the price varies.
Step 3: Doctor to prescribe
Apart from Tasmania, where a specialist is required to prescribe medical cannabis, any GP can prescribe in the rest of Australia. The best way to start is by going through your doctor as they know your medical history and will be the main hub for all your treatments. If a GP is not interested or helpful, choose a cannabis clinic to help with the treatment. While some clinics need referrals, others do not. Doing proper research on search engines, social media accounts of doctors who post positive results is essential. A GP can prescribe any product available in Australia as they will first need to send an application.
If a doctor is an Authorized Prescriber (AP) they are authorized to prescribe a specific product for specific conditions. They are eligible to give a prescription on the spot. If a particular medication is not a part of AP authority, they must follow the same procedure as GPs i.e., sending an application to TGA. Clinics already have a list of products that they can prescribe and do not go out of that range.
Step 4: Speak with a doctor
It is necessary to explain to a GP why you need medical cannabis and you thoroughly understand the benefits and side effects upon consumption. Find out more on the positive and negative effects of CBD here. Only then will the GP send an application to the TGA.
Step 5: Approval
After sending out an application, if your request has been approved, you will receive a confirmation through email, text, or call. Some clinics send the script directly to the pharmacy who will further contact you. It is necessary to find out if your local pharmacy will dispense cannabis for you. However, some pharmacies can rip patients off hence it is best to contact your doctor to find out the exact price when prescribed. A decent price for dispensing and shipping is around $20-$35.
Step 6: Follow up with doctors
Everybody reacts differently hence it is very important to ask your doctor when to start, lower consumption and when to stop. Typically, a minimum of one to two follow-ups is recommended in the first month after treatment. Further one will need to visit if the prescription needs renewal if the medication shows positive results.
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