Although medicinal cannabis is still strictly controlled and regulated, doctors may prescribe it to patients in Australia if it’s clinically indicated to treat or manage a condition.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, or TGA), is the regulatory body for medicinal cannabis.
In 2019, it granted over 25,000 prescriptions from doctors to treat a patient with medicinal marijuana.
This was more than a 10-fold increase over the previous year. The TGA reports that there have been more than 18,000 medical cannabis applications since the beginning of 2020.
This article provides an overview of the conditions that medicinal cannabis can be used for, the cost of treatment, and whether or not private insurance may cover the costs.
Is medical cannabis legal in Australia?
If a doctor believes that medicinal cannabis is appropriate for their patients and has obtained the appropriate state and/or government approvals. In that case, they can then prescribe legal marijuana products to their patients.
The TGA currently has only one registered medicinal cannabis product (Sativex).
Multiple Sclerosis Australia states that the TGA approved this product to treat patients suffering from muscle stiffness due to multiple sclerosis.
The TGA requires doctors to go through the Special Access Scheme and Authorised Prescriber Scheme to access unregistered medical cannabis products.
According to the TGA, approval or authorisation will only be granted for specific cases. This is how it works in each territory and state:
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Victoria?
If they feel it is appropriate for the patient and have obtained the required approvals from the Commonwealth or state governments, any doctor in Victoria may prescribe medicinal cannabis to a patient suffering from any condition.
For more information, visit Health Victoria.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in New South Wales?
If they feel medicinal cannabis is the best treatment option for their patient, any doctor in New South Wales may prescribe it.
Check out the NSW Government’s website here!.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Queensland?
Suppose they feel it is appropriate for the patient and has received the necessary approvals from the Commonwealth or state. In that case, any registered Queensland medical practitioner can prescribe medicinal cannabis to any patient.
Visit the Queensland Health website on cannabis here!
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in South Australia
South Australian patients can obtain prescriptions for medicinal cannabis from their licensed medical practitioner. All medical practitioners must have the appropriate approvals.
Visit the South Australian (SA) Health website on cannabis here!
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Western Australia?
If they feel medicinal cannabis is appropriate for the patient, any Western Australian medical practitioner can recommend it.
Visit the Western Australian (WA) Health department’s guide on cannabis here!
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Tasmania?
Referring to a specialist medical doctor can be done by your GP. In limited cases where conventional treatment has failed, and medical cannabis is clinically indicated, the medical specialist may prescribe medical marijuana.
The specialist must obtain the relevant approvals. Visit the Tasmanian Health department’s website on cannabis here!
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in the Australian Capital Territory?
If they feel medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for you, your doctor can recommend it.
Read more about the Canberra Cannabis Rules and Laws here! Or visit the ACT Health website on cannabis here!
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in the Northern Territory?
A doctor in Australia who the TGA has approved can provide medicinal cannabis to patients in the Northern Territory.
The Department of Health in the NT recommends that patients be referred to a specialist by a GP for evaluation.
This may include specialists who are located outside of the NT.
Visit the NT Health department’s website on cannabis here!
Australian cannabis outlook for 2021-2022: Medical cannabis is still responsible
Prohibition Partners, an international drug research company, has revealed that Oceania’s entire cannabis industry is estimated to be worth US$1.5 Billion by 2024.
About 40% of this amount will come from medical cannabis.
Brett Schwarz, CFO of Cannatrek and corporate advisor, said to INN that he wanted to build a successful business using medicinal cannabis.
Schwarz stated that it is difficult to predict when Australia will legalise recreational use. This would be a significant catalyst for the growth of the cannabis market.
Cannatrek’s executive was sceptical about recreational cannabis opening anytime soon. Instead, he opted to focus on the future of the medical market.
FreshLeaf Analytics has estimated that the Australian medical market will be worth AU$95 Million in 2020, according to a study.
Roby Zomer is co-founder, Managing Director, and CEO of MGC Pharma. Cannabis education is increasing patient interest, while medical professionals feel more comfortable prescribing it.
The MCG Pharma executive stated that this is driving legislative changes around the globe and driving demand for high-quality medicinal cannabis products.
It is easy to see the growth trend for medical cannabis in Australia. FreshLeaf Analytics reports that product availability increased quickly in the second half of 2020, with 150 products available to patients.
According to the research firm, 30,000 patients could legally purchase medical cannabis in the country at the end of 2020.
The study states that recent price declines have brought the legal and illegal markets to parity. This has allowed us to compete with mature markets like Canada in terms of pricing.
For what conditions can medicinal marijuana legally be used?
The TGA doesn’t have a list of conditions for which medicinal cannabis can be prescribed. Each patient will be evaluated individually.
Some of the applications for which it has previously approved the prescribing of medicinal cannabis include:
- Vomiting and nausea after chemotherapy
- Severe epilepsy in childhood
- Pain from cancer
- Neuropathic pain
- Spasticity in neurological conditions
- Wheezing and anorexia caused by a chronic illness such as cancer
According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), further research is required into the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis products. The current evidence is minimal. However, the organisation does indicate that medicinal cannabis products may be useful in certain areas.
What is the cost of medicinal cannabis?
According to the Victorian Department of Health, medicinal cannabis products can cost between $50 and $1,000 per patient per week.
It states that the price of medicinal cannabis products will vary depending on the type of condition being treated, what product is required, and how much it is prescribed.
Multiple Sclerosis Australia states that Sativex costs $745 for a supply of six to eight weeks.
A clinical trial may allow you to get medicinal cannabis free of cost. Clinical trials usually last only for a limited time.
Trials of medicinal marijuana are registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR). If you are interested, the Victorian Department of Health recommends that you speak to your doctor.
Read more about the cost of accessing medical cannabis in Australia here!
Does Medicare covers medicinal cannabis?
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) does not currently provide any subsidy for medicinal cannabis products. Patients are responsible for paying the entire cost of medical cannabis products.
Does private insurance cover medicinal cannabis?
According to Tetra Health, which facilitates access to medical cannabis treatment, health insurance doesn’t typically cover cannabis medication costs.
HIF, an insurer, stated no evidence supporting the effectiveness of cannabis, and therefore it is not covered under its private insurance. The insurer said that this could change in the “future.”
It may be worthwhile to speak with your private insurance company about the types of treatment and associated costs covered under your policy.
Read more about whether or not Medicare or private insurance covers medicinal marijuana here!
What happens if you’re not eligible for medicinal cannabis?
According to the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, medicinal cannabis is considered an experimental medicine with potential risks.
The Victorian Department of Health advises that you seek second opinions from other healthcare professionals if your doctor doesn’t think it is appropriate to prescribe medicinal cannabis.
This will help you be reassured about your doctor’s decision and receive a new treatment.
To be able to use unregistered medical cannabis products, you must apply for authorisation. You must apply for approval to access unregistered medicinal cannabis products.
It is illegal in Australia to possess or use cannabis, except for the ACT. The ACT legalised the personal and possession of cannabis from 31 January 2020.
Adults can grow up to four plants per household and two plants per person. This violates Commonwealth law.
New South Wales offers a compassionate use program for medicinal cannabis.
The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation says that the scheme allows police officers to exercise their discretion and not charge people with terminal illnesses for possessing cannabis that has not been prescribed.
Healthdirect.gov.au is a government-owned health information site that warns patients not to attempt to import marijuana products or to smoke ‘street’ cannabis to treat their symptoms.
The website states that you cannot control the amount or the contents of the product, which is illegal.
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or need to get medical advice.
Conclusion: Is medical marijuana legal in Australia?
The current availability of cannabis products in Australia is limited to CBD oils and CBD tinctures. Although doctors are more open to prescribing medicinal cannabis products, they remain cautious about the drug.
Future business opportunities will still be driven by product innovation in this industry, such as the expanding overseas edibles market.
This will ensure there is always a strong demand for Australian cannabis products regardless of the changes in the law.
Although some states are considering further decriminalisation, the federal government would still have to join the fray.
This means that Australia may not see complete legalisation of cannabis for some time.
There are still many opportunities for local cannabis stocks in expansion, including international sales of Australian-made medicinal products and essential research projects proving marijuana’s viability as a mainstream treatment option.
It remains to be determined which state will take the top spot in Australia’s market for cannabis.
James is an experienced writer and legal cannabis advocate in Australia. He answers all the questions about business, legalisation and medicinal cannabis.
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