The law on medicinal cannabis in Queensland

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Recent changes to the law have made it legal for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis in Queensland. Read on as we break down the legalities of accessing cannabis for medical treatment.

What’s changed?

In case you didn’t know, yes, it’s still illegal to possess cannabis in Queensland (and Australia). But you can now get your hands on the medicinal variety through a prescription from a doctor.

This good news is thanks to the Queensland Parliament recently making changes to the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996. Previously, you could only obtain it through a “specialist” doctor, or a doctor with Queensland Government approval. In classic legal-ese, the definition for a specialist doctor meant:

“a person registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to practise in the medical profession as a specialist registrant in the specialty”

Clear as mud right?

Thankfully, and in keeping with the times, sense has prevailed. The only requirement now is that the prescription is made by a “doctor”. It might not seem like much, but this small change now makes it much easier to obtain medicinal cannabis.

What are the requirements to be prescribed medicinal cannabis?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it should be pointed out that despite there no longer being a general requirement to obtain Queensland government approval, doctors are still required to obtain Commonwealth approval. They must be approved under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

Provided your doctor has this approval, then they are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for “any patient with any condition, if they believe it is clinically appropriate”.

There is one catch to this: Queensland government approval is still needed where the patient is considered “drug-dependant”. In that case they can still prescribe it; there are just more hoops to jump through to make sure it’s safe.

To prescribe THC, CBD or a THC/CBD combo, doctors need to be able to refer to clinical evidence that supports the use of the drug for the medical condition or symptoms. Queensland Health suggests there is sufficient clinical evidence that medicinal cannabis is suitable for:

  • severe muscle spasms or other symptoms of multiple sclerosis
  • nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy
  • some types of epilepsy with severe seizures
  • palliative care
  • some forms of chronic pain

However, cancer is not currently considered a suitable medical condition on its’ own for the prescription of medicinal cannabis, as there is no evidence that it helps.

Doctors can prescribe cannabis in oil, vapour, capsules, sprays or nabiximols (a specific cannabis extract sold in a spray). Smoking of cannabis isn’t approved in Queensland, but vaporising is legal (with a warning that there are no vaporisers currently registered in Australia under the TGA; so exercise caution).

Things to note

  • No, you cannot produce your own cannabis, or buy it from your mate down the road — even if you’ve been prescribed it. You have to purchase it through an authorised pharmacist.
  • Currently it is not listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which means it’s not subsidised by the Government, and the price is not regulated by the Government either.
  • Even though you might be prescribed cannabis with THC in it, it’s still illegal to have THC in your system and drive a car. The difficulty with this requirement is that often cannabis can be detected up to weeks later, so extra caution must be exercised before deciding to drive. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you can read about our expertise in this area here.
  • Just like any other drug, it can be given to children and administered at school if required.
  • If you’re interested in applying for a licence to produce cannabis, then you can read about the application process and requirements here.

Final thoughts

This is obviously a good first step towards the widespread acceptance of cannabis as just another drug in our ever expanding catalogue of drugs. Maybe one day Australia will follow the path of other countries like America, Canada and countless others that have legalised the recreational use of cannabis.

But for now, if you have been charged with possession of cannabis without a prescription, then we’re here to help. Read all about our expertise in this area then contact us to ensure your future is not thrown away along with the key.