Quick Summary – How to Find Medical Marijuana Doctors in Australia
The best way to find a medical marijuana doctor is to speak to your regular doctor. In Australia, any doctor has the authority to prescribe medical cannabis.
Because its not a registered medication, doctors need to apply for authority via the Special Access Scheme or the Authorized Prescriber scheme. This can be time consuming and cumbersome if doctors are not familiar with the process.
Patients will also need to find a suitable pharmacy that will agree to dispense medical cannabis medications.
If your regular doctor is not willing to discuss this with you, take our quick eligibility test and book in with one of our medical cannabis doctors who can help you get started.
Can Any Doctor Prescribe Medical Cannabis?
Yes, any doctor in Australia can legally prescribe medical cannabis if they obtain the proper authority via the Special Access Scheme or the Authorized Prescriber pathway. In essence, any practitioner can be a cannabis doctor.
Will Any Doctor Prescriber Medical Cannabis?
This is a more important question. Just because any doctor can prescribe medical cannabis doesn’t mean they will. In fact most doctors will not prescribe medical cannabis for a variety of reasons:
Unfortunately there is still lots of stigma attached to medical cannabis and its usually viewed as a recreational drug rather than a medication. It is difficult for many health practitioners to see past this given that cannabis has been misunderstood for many years. Doctor’s don’t want to be known as ‘cannabis doctors’. Although attitudes towards the use of cannabis are shifting, it will be a while before we see big changes in public opinion.
Most doctors do not have experience utilizing medical cannabis in their practice and it is not something they learn about in medical school. Thus, it’s understandable that they do not feel comfortable prescribing medical cannabis for their patients as they cannot be assured of its efficacy and safety. They also aren’t familiar with prescribing regiments, optimal formulations for each condition as well as dosing guidelines.
Since doctors have to go through the special access scheme for unregistered medicines, the process is time consuming and admin heavy. Doctors are not familiar with this process and for many time poor doctors its understandable that they cannot set aside hours to learn about and complete all the steps required.
National vs State Approval
Because medical cannabis is an unregistered medication (not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods) doctors need to apply to the government under a special program setup for accessing unregistered medications.
They need authority on a national level (TGA) and state level (i.e. NSW Health).
Some states have streamlined the process so that if the TGA grants approval, the doctors automatically gains state approval (with limited exceptions i.e. children under the age of 16 may still need separate state approval).
To understand which doctors can prescribe medical cannabis in your area, state regulations need to be considered.
Medical Cannabis Doctor Directory by State
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in New South Wales
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in Queensland
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in Victoria
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in Western Australia
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in South Australia
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in Tasmania
- Medical Cannabis Doctors in Northern Territories
What Medicinal Cannabis Products Can Doctors Prescribe?
There are now over 190 different medical cannabis products legally available for prescription in Australia. Although cannabis oil (taken orally) still remains the most popular type, many other forms are available including oral sprays, wafers, flower (for vaporization) and capsules. Some compound pharmacies can even formulate CBD creams used topically.
Cannabis oil now makes up 65% of medical cannabis products prescribed and flower makes up 17%.
Since medical cannabis was legalised back in 2016, cannabis medication prices have reduced dramatically. Prices have come down over 50% over the years. As more competition enters the market, suppliers are forced to drop their prices to remain competitive.
Its difficult for time poor doctors to stay across all the new products available. One of the benefits of using a medical cannabis clinic is that we always stay on top of price changes in market to ensure our patients receive the best value possible.
Can Doctors Prescribe Cannabis Flower?
Yes, any doctor can legally prescribe cannabis flower for any health condition if they believe it is an appropriate treatment option.
Many doctors will start their patients on cannabis oil first as its easier to dose and consume. Flower is better suited for breakthrough pain as the onset of flower is much faster than oil.
Patients still need to trial a conventional medication first before being prescribed cannabis flower as it cannot be a first line treatment.
Can’t Medical Cannabis Now Be Bought Over the Counter at the Pharmacy?
Although CBD has been down scheduled to Schedule 3 – available over the counter at pharmacies, there are still no legal products available to purchase in Australia yet.
This is because companies need to first conduct clinical research demonstrating efficacy and safety of their products. The products also need to meet strict GMP (Good Manufacturing Process) protocols to be registered.
It will be a while before CBD products are available for purchase over the counter in pharmacies across Australia. Even once available, they will be limited to CBD Isolates and may be expensive due to the enormous research and development costs companies will need to recoup.
Who Is an Authorised Prescriber?
Some doctors can prescribe under the Authorized Prescriber access pathway which means they don’t need to apply to the TGA to prescribe specific medical cannabis products each time. The process to become an Authorized Prescriber is time consuming and onerous so some doctors still prefer to prescribe via the SAS-B pathway (Special Access Scheme).
For example, if your doctor is an Authorised Prescriber for a certain brand of oil and you would like to trial a different formulation or a flower, the doctor will need to be an Authorised Prescriber for that product as well in order to use this access pathway. Otherwise they will need to apply for the new product under the SAS-B pathway.
How Do I Find a Medical Cannabis Doctor?
As mentioned above, the best place to start is with your regular doctor as they have a good understanding of your medical condition and history. Most doctors however, lack experience or won’t feel comfortable prescribing medicinal cannabis.
Additionally, since medicinal cannabis products are currently not TGA-approved registered medications, there is additional regulatory paperwork to be done. This is a challenge for time starved GPs.
In these cases, you can ask your GP or specialist doctor to refer you to a medical cannabis clinic. If your regular doctor refuses to refer you, you can also book in directly with one of our medical cannabis doctors here.
What Conditions Can Medicinal Cannabis Doctors Prescribe For?
There is no specific list of conditions eligible and the TGA will consider any condition that has not responded to conventional treatment. The list of conditions that the TGA have approved in the past are:
Chronic pain, Neuropathy, Sleep disorders, PTSD, Depression, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Insomnia, Anxiety, Ischemia Arthritis, Migraines, Epilepsy / Seizure management, ADHD symptoms, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, Glaucoma, Anorexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathic pain, Cancer Pain, Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), Parkinson’s Disease, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, Dementia, Endometriosis, Spasticity from neurological conditions, Epilepsy and Tremors.
This is not an exhaustive list and new conditions are being approved on a regular basis.
The most common reasons we see people prescribed medical cannabis in the clinic are for all types of chronic pain as well as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. A systematic review of the clinical evidence conducted to date is also available here.
My Doctor Won’t Refer Me to a Medical Cannabis Doctor – What Can I Do?
Medical cannabis is a relatively new treatment option for Australian doctors so its understandable that many lack experience and are uncomfortable supporting treatment.
If your doctor refuses to refer you, you can ask that your health summary be faxed to our clinic at 02-8331-5703. You can book in directly with one of our medical cannabis doctors here.
How Long Do Medical Cannabis Approvals Take?
Under the SAS-B pathway, doctors need to apply to the TGA for every cannabis product prescribed. It can take a few days or up to a week to gain approval. Once approved, the prescription is written and sent along with the permit to the pharmacy.
Under the Authorised Prescriber pathway, the prescription is sent directly to the pharmacy. Depending on which state you live in, your medication can be dispensed the same day. However pharmacies generally don’t keep medical cannabis products in stock so they will need to order it in which could take another few days.
Do I Have to See the Medical Cannabis Doctor Face to Face?
You don’t have to see the doctor face to face in order to be assessed for medical cannabis. You can book in a telehealth consultation and speak with the doctor over the phone or video link.
Medical marijuana (as its also known) is available for any doctor in Australia to prescribe if they feel its warranted for their patients.
Authority to prescribe medical cannabis is granted on a national level (TGA) and state level so there may be state variations which may limit some doctors from prescribing certain products.
If your regular doctor is uncomfortable prescribing cannabis they can refer you to our clinic by filling out and sending back our referral form.
If your regular doctor is not willing to refer you or to discuss the matter you can also book in with one of our medical cannabis doctors who can help you get started.