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.
Thanks to our appointed representatives, the requirement has been relaxed to allow prescriptions made by an ordinary “doctor”. It might not seem like much, but this small change now makes it much easier to obtain medicinal cannabis (subject to conditions, below).
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 (Tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (Cannabidiol) 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 patients; and
- Some forms of chronic pain.
Unfortunately, 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 leaf isn’t approved in Queensland, but vaporising is legal (with a warning that there is currently only one medical vaporiser approved in Australia by the TGA). Approved vaporisers can only be used in approved smoking areas, at a safe distance from others, including children.
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.
- It is not currently listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which means it’s not subsidised by the Government, and the price is not regulated by the Government either. According to healthdirect.gov.au, the cost can vary between $50 to $1,000 per week.
- 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 sometimes be detected up to weeks later, so extra caution must be exercised before deciding to drive. If you’ve found yourself charged with a drug driving offence, you should read about our expertise in this area and contact us for advice.
- 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.
This is obviously a good first step towards the widespread acceptance of cannabis as just another drug in our ever expanding catalogue of legalised 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 drug driving, or the 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.