Medicinal Cannabis Consumer Update

On May 18, Ken Young attended the Medicinal Cannabis Consumer Update organised by the Consumer Health Forum on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Australian Advisory Council for the Medicinal Use of Cannabis.

There has been considerable media attention to the decision by the Australian and State Governments to facilitate access to medicinal cannabis products to appropriate patients for medical conditions where there is evidence to support its use. Many people have questions about who is eligible, how they can access the product if eligible and range of other issues around supply, quality etc. The aim of the forum was to try to answer some of those questions by giving general information about medicinal cannabis, evidence around its use and the access pathways including clarification of who is eligible to use it and the process for doing so.

Medicinal cannabis became a controlled drug in the Poisons Standard on 1 November 2016. Medicinal cannabis is a controlled substance that is regulated to prevent diversion and illicit use. For this reason, demand and supply are linked in the regulatory process.

The current medicinal cannabis framework – agreed by the Australian and participating State Governments is:

  • medicinal cannabis is medicine to be available on prescription only
  • produced to quality standards
  • with patient access through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) protocol for unapproved medicines

Medicinal cannabis can be prescribed under the provisions of a controlled drug (Schedule 8) of the Poisons Standard. However, whether medicinal cannabis can be prescribed in a particular jurisdiction depends on whether the state or territory has adopted the change. So just as historically trains gauges changed at Albury there are difference between accessing medicinal cannabis in Victoria and New South Wales!

Individual consumers cannot apply to obtain approval to import and access unapproved medicinal cannabis products. Patients will only be able to access medicinal cannabis if they:

live in a state or territory where it is not a prohibited substance
obtain a prescription from an appropriate medical practitioner, who obtains permission from:

  • the state or territory
  • the TGA for you to obtain a specific medicinal cannabis product

You can find out more about the process from the TGA website.

Currently in Victoria access to medicinal cannabis is restricted to children with severe intractable epilepsy. With other conditions being considered by an Independent Medical Advisory Committee. The Office of Medicinal Cannabis has been established within the Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for establishing the Victorian medicinal cannabis framework. You can find out more information at their website.

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