Medical cannabis patients in Queensland are being forced to turn to black-market bud, as medical cannabis supplies run short on the Gold Coast.
Australian regulations only allow medical cannabis patients to take the specific medicine or strain they are prescribed. This means that patients taking medications with supply shortages are unable to be given alternative medicines when supply shortages occur.
One such shortage has been occurring over the past few months, with supplies of several cannabis medicines completely running out.
To be prescribed another medication patients would need to revisit their physician and apply for a medication change with the Therapeutic Goods Administration – a process that takes several weeks to complete.
Advocacy organisation Medicinal Cannabis Users Australia (MCUA) believes this setup has led to medical cannabis patients being unfairly treated, as shortages of other medications would be treated as a national emergency.
According to one patient, Caroline Schofield, this makes medical cannabis like her feel “treated like a criminal”. Ms. Schofield takes medical cannabis for PTSD, chronic back pain and epilepsy, and was affected by medical cannabis shortages over Christmas. She believes it could take months for her medication switch to be approved.
MCUA President Deb Lynch told the Queensland Times that the government needs to support patient access to medical cannabis to keep patients from resorting to black-market cannabis.
The shortage of legal product is forcing more and more patients back to the green and black market. Patients have had enough of the supply issues and want the problem fixed.
Lynch is a founding member of political party Legalise Cannabis Queensland (LCQ), which believes that the lack of legal access to cannabis fuels Australia’s cannabis black market. This perspective is shared by experts globally.
The Queensland Times also spoke to Dr. Ben Jansen from Cannabis Doctors Australia, who believes that supply issues are the result of Christmas delays and growing demand for medical cannabis. Dr. Jansen is pushing the Federal Government for changes to medical cannabis laws.
While it is unknown how many medical cannabis patients are affected by the shortages, there were over 50,000 Australians with access to medical cannabis through the Category B of the Special Access Scheme (SAS) in July 2020.