An increasing number of government agencies are showing support for medical cannabis, as Australia’s medical cannabis industry welcomes in nearly 50,000 new patients in 2020.
Although Australia’s medical cannabis industry is relatively young, it’s grown to be worth over $64 million in less than five years. As the industry gains acceptance Australia-wide, support for medical cannabis is quickly growing among governmental agencies.
Recently, Queensland removed red tape restrictions around medical cannabis, allowing Queenslanders to apply for prescriptions directly through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) without Queensland Health oversight. And they aren’t alone in their support.
In 2018, the New South Wales Government committed $21 million to medical cannabis research and education, establishing the Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service. Since then, they’ve streamlined medical cannabis into a single application form and implemented a 36-hour turnaround.
Over in Western Australia, governmental changes have allowed General Practitioners to prescribe cannabis medications without specialist permission, when patients are over the age of 16 and have no history of drug addiction.
The Victorian government is currently sponsoring studies into the medical uses and safety of CBD (cannabis’s non-psychoactive property) and has established the Office of Medicinal Cannabis. Victoria also offers professional development courses for RACGP General Practitioners and pharmacists. South Australia has also established the Office of Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis and does not require patients over the age of 70 to apply for a prescription.
However, medical cannabis is still stigmatized and difficult to access Australia-wide, as patients and their doctors still need to apply for TGA’s Special Access Scheme to obtain a prescription. RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told the ABC:
“Several states and territories have taken steps to streamline the process, but it remains highly bureaucratic and time-consuming.”
While mainland Australia faces less bureaucracy, the time-consuming prescription process is a huge problem in Tasmania, where a shortage of medical cannabis trained doctors has led to an average wait time of twelve months. The same is occurring up north, with just a single patient prescribed to medicinal cannabis in the Northern Territory throughout 2019.
However, increasing evidence into medical cannabis may fix this. In 2020, there is significant medical evidence that suggests that cannabis products are beneficial for patients suffering from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain, as well as patients in palliative care and suffering nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy.
If you’d like to learn more about current and upcoming studies, visit the Medicinal Cannabis topic.