- Medical marijuana in Australia is only available with a doctor’s prescription. It is against the law to buy medical marijuana online without speaking to a doctor and obtaining a prescription.
- Medical marijuana is being used for many conditions in Australia. The most common conditions are chronic pain, anxiety and depression, sleeping disorders and inflammatory disorders (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Arthritis etc.)
- The cost of medical marijuana is on par or usually cheaper than black market cannabis. Increased competition over the years has resulted in substantial cost decreases.
- The best place to start is your regular doctor. If they are not keen, start by filling out our eligibility form to book in with one of our medical cannabis doctors.
What Medical Conditions Qualify for Medicinal Marijuana?
Contrary to popular belief there is no defined list of conditions that medical marijuana can be approved for by the TGA.
The criteria used to determine eligibility is simply if you have tried conventional medication for your symptoms and these have not fully controlled your symptoms or have caused side effects.
Medical cannabis does not have to be a last resort as many people wrongfully believe. Rather, it simply cannot be a first line treatment. So you would need to have tried a registered medication that your doctor would ordinarily prescribe for your symptoms.
If that medication fails to work or causes intolerable side effects, you would then be deemed eligible to trial medical cannabis.
TGA Approved Applications
As of September 2021, the TGA has approved medical cannabis for the following conditions:
Chronic pain, Anxiety, Cancer pain and symptom management, Insomnia, Neuropathic pain, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Sleep disorder, Epilepsy, Seizure management, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Spasticity, Migraine, Depression, Fibromyalgia, Palliative care, Parkinson’s disease, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Nausea, Multiple sclerosis (MS), Movement disorder, Anorexia, Tremor, Dystonia, Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Mood disorder, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Chronic fatigue syndrome among many others.
What Types of Medical Marijuana Products Are Available?
There are over 190 different products available in Australia at the moment and new products are being launched all the time. Products come in various forms:
- Flower (for vaporization)
- Oral Sprays
- Dissolving oral strips
- Creams and topical formulations
Oils are by far the most popular form at the moment, representing 65% of medical marijuana prescriptions written as of September 2021. Flower is the second most popular form representing 17% of medical marijuana prescriptions written in Australia.
What Formulations of Medical Marijuana Are Prescribed?
Products are generally split into 3 different categories: CBD, Balanced (CBD+THC) and THC products. Within CBD there is a further distinction of products as explained below:
- CBD Full Spectrum – the full plant extract containing all the cannabinoids, terpenes and other natural compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant (including very low, non impairment levels of THC). Full spectrum is needed to maximize the potential ‘entourage effect’.
- CBD Broad Spectrum – is full spectrum CBD that is further refined to remove the trace amounts of THC to accommodate driving laws in Australia. This is a good balance between maximizing the entourage effect potential and being able to legally drive.
- CBD Isolate – is a highly refined product where all the other minor cannabinoids, terpenes and natural compounds contained in cannabis are removed. It’s legal to drive while taking CBD isolate but you lose out on the potential entourage effect. Schedule 3 over the counter CBD products will most likely be CBD isolates.
- Balanced – equal parts CBD and THC. This is usually considered when CBD alone is not enough to manage symptoms. Research suggests that some THC is required to help alleviate symptoms of pain.
- THC Dominant – THC dominant with little to no CBD present.
The doctor will start with a formulation they think is most beneficial for your symptoms and condition. For example, for nerve pain it is thought that a balanced product containing both CBD and THC will be the most effective.
For anxiety, most people start with a CBD dominant product.
You may need to try one or two different formulations to find the most suitable product. Medical cannabis is a very individualized medicine, affecting each person differently so there is no set dosing.
The best approach is to work with an experienced doctor to try and find the most optimal formulation and dosage.
How Much Does Medical Marijuana Cost in Australia?
Although cost varies depending on each person’s condition, most people on average spend between $4-$8 per day. The cost of medical cannabis in Australia has reduced dramatically over the years.
On a cost per mg basis, product cost depends on the formulation. CBD oils sell for as low as $0.05/mg – substantially lower than many black market, unregulated CBD oils sold online.
Balanced oils and THC oils sell for as low as $0.10/mg. Cannabis flower is usually between $13-$20 per gram depending on the brand and THC level.
To calculate the amount of mg/ml in a bottle of medication you simple divide the total mg claimed on the bottle (i.e. 1000 mg) by the size of the bottle in milliliters (ml).
A 50ml bottle containing 1000mg of CBD would be (1000/50) 20mg/ml.
Many people compare price and bottle size in ml but you need to consider the concentration of the oil as well to compare accurately.
Which Types of Doctors can Prescribe Medical Marijuana?
In Australia, any doctor can prescribe medical marijuana if it is clinically justified. The problem is most doctors don’t view marijuana as medicine given a long history of stigma and misunderstanding.
Convincing your regular doctor to prescribe medical marijuana can be a challenge. Even if they are open to it, there is lots of paperwork involved given the unregistered status of cannabis medicines.
Doctors usually need to apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) under the Special Access Scheme created for prescribing unregistered medications such as medical marijuana.
Some doctors have applied to be Authorized Prescribers which means they can prescribe a range of medical cannabis products without having to apply to the TGA each time.
Can I Grown My Own Cannabis if I Am Prescribed?
Unfortunately patients are not allowed to grow their own medical marijuana, even if they are prescribed. Companies need to obtain an ODC license and the proper permits to legally grow medical cannabis for patients in Australia.
Most of the medication prescribed in Australia is currently sourced from overseas where medical cannabis schemes are more advanced and have much higher patient numbers.
There is a growing industry of locally cultivated and manufactured medical cannabis but the industry is still in its infancy. It will take a while for more local production to come online.
This has not stopped prices from decreasing, however, as the influx of international competitors flooding the Australian market with product has resulted in better prices for Australian patients.
Is It Legal to Drive While Taking Medical Marijuana?
Driving while on medical cannabis depends on the particular medication prescribed. Many patients taking CBD isolate and CBD broad spectrum products (where the THC has been removed) can legally drive as long as they are not impaired.
However, patients taking medical cannabis products that contain THC run the risk of testing positive on a road side drug test. Unfortunately, medical cannabis patients who are legally prescribed are not exempt from roadside drug testing and potential legal sanctions.
Australian driving laws do not test for impairment, but rather the detection of THC in oral fluid. THC can typically be detected in oral fluid for up to 12 hours after vaporizing. Note that this is highly variable and THC could potentially be detected long after that.
Although emerging studies show little increase in crash risk with low blood THC concentrations, Australian driving laws do not currently take this into account.
The tide is changing however with many organizations petitioning for more equitable drug driving laws that take medical cannabis into consideration.
Tasmania is the first state in Australia where medical cannabis patients who use THC but are not impaired can claim medically prescribed cannabis as a defence against a positive roadside test.
Where Do I Start?
The best place to start is to speak with your regular doctor. If they support you but don’t feel comfortable prescribing, they can refer you to our clinic by filling out our referral form.
If your doctor is not supportive or willing to discuss the matter you can complete our quick eligibility test and book in with one of our medical cannabis doctors for a phone or video consultation here.