Medicinal cannabis in Australia
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As of 1 February 2021, you can buy up to 150mg of cannabidiol (CBD) per day in pharmacies across Australia without a prescription. For a stronger dose of medicinal cannabis though, you'll need to speak to your GP or specialist doctor and have a valid medical reason.
Is medical marijuana legal in Australia?
Yes, though the correct term applied to legal majijuana in Australia is medicinal cannabis. Since February 2021, pharmacies have been allowed to sell CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol, over the counter in Australia. But it's still likely to be a few months before it's actually available as no CBD oils have been approved for sale yet.
While other medicinal cannabis products are legal, they still require a prescription from a doctor and approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Only a doctor can apply to the TGA to get medicinal cannabis; you can't do it yourself. The doctor needs to provide medical evidence that you need it, obtain permits and comply with relevant state laws.
Medical marijuanas Australia laws
Here's how the laws work in each state and territory:
- Medicinal marijuana NSW. Any doctor in New South Wales can prescribe medicinal cannabis if they believe it's appropriate and they get approval from the TGA. Check with the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation for further details.
- Medical marijuana laws ACT. Doctors in the ACT can apply to the ACT Chief Health Officer for approval to prescribe cannabis products so long as there is a valid medical reason. Approved conditions for timely treatment include spasticity in multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, pain and anxiety in patients with a life-limiting disease, and refractory paediatric epilepsy. Visit the ACT Health website for more info.
- Medical marijuana laws Victoria. Any doctor in Victoria can prescribe medicinal cannabis for a patient if they believe it's appropriate and they get approval from the state authorities. Check health.vic for more details.
- Medical marijuana laws Queensland. You can get medicinal cannabis if there is clinical evidence that it's effective for your condition and the usual treatments haven't worked. If the medicinal cannabis contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), you need to provide written consent you won't drive or operate heavy machinery. Your doctor will need to get approval from the TGA. Contact Queensland Health for more details.
- Medical marijuana laws SA. There's no restricted list of medical conditions for which medicinal cannabis may be prescribed in South Australia. It's decided on a case-by-case basis by your doctor. More information is available from SA Health.
- Medical marijuana laws WA. Any doctor or medical practitioner can prescribe medicinal cannabis if they believe it is appropriate and they have the necessary approvals from the TGA. Visit the WA Government's Department of Health for more information.
- Medical marijuana laws NT. Patients in the Northern Territory can access medicinal cannabis through doctors who are authorised under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Schemes administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Visit the Department of Health website for full details.
- Medical marijuana laws Tasmania. Under the Tasmanian Government's medical cannabis controlled access scheme (CAS) launched in September 2017, specialists can prescribe medicinal cannabis where conventional treatment has been unsuccessful. Contact the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services for full details.
Is medicinal cannabis covered by private health insurance?
In some cases, yes. Extras insurance typically covers non-PBS items – that means pharmaceuticals which aren't subsidised by Medicare. Medical cannabis is considered a non-PBS item.
However, to be covered by your extras policy, the non-PBS item must be registered with the TGA. At the moment, medicinal cannabis is only approved for certain health conditions, including cancer pain, neuropathic pain and palliative care.
If you can meet the conditions laid out by the TGA, you may be entitled to claim the cost of certain medicinal cannabis drugs on your extras insurance, including:
If you have private health insurance it may be worth speaking to your health fund directly about which kinds of treatments, and related costs, are covered by your policy.
Does health insurance cover CBD oil?
Over-the-counter CBD oil generally won't be covered by your extras insurance, as funds typically only reimburse costs for prescription medicine.
However, if you have a prescription and you have an extras policy that includes cover for non-PBS pharmaceuticals, it may be worth checking with your fund directly.
Is recreational cannabis legal?
No, the use of cannabis for non-medicinal purposes is still illegal in Australia, with the exception of the ACT. Since 31 January 2020, the ACT allows for adults to cultivate up to 50 grams per person and a maximum of four plants per household.
The New South Wales medicinal cannabis compassionate use scheme gives police officers the right to use their discretion to not charge adults with a terminal illness for possession of cannabis that hasn't been prescribed by a doctor.
In January 2018, the Australian Government announced its intention to develop amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 which will regulate the cultivation of cannabis for scientific and medicinal purposes. However, cannabis is still a highly regulated drug in Australia and use, possession or cultivation for non-medical purposes can lead to criminal or civil penalties.
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