The Accessibility of Medicinal Cannabis
Medicinal cannabis was declared legal at a federal level in Australia on the 24th of February 2016, however each state and territory has different guidelines and laws in place to govern the accessibility of the drug. Despite resistance towards legalisation, community rallies and evidence of the benefits of medicinal cannabis propelled the issue into the spotlight. At the time of legalisation, there was support from both major parties.
Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in Australia and cannabis is classified as a schedule 2 drug, carrying lesser sentences for possession than opioids like heroin and ecstasy. The Australian Government aims to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967, to establish legal methods of production of medicinal cannabis to be sold within Australia.
In order to obtain medicinal cannabis, a general practitioner or specialist doctor must prescribe it. This may take time, as a number of doctors avoid prescribing it for reasons of possible dependence on the drug and side effects, or a doctor may rule that medicinal cannabis will not alleviate symptoms of a specific condition. If, however, a professional believes it will be helpful, they must contact the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) alongside the Department of Health in that specific state with a detailed treatment plan for possible approval.
New South Wales is the only state where any condition can be considered for medicinal cannabis, whereas all other states vary from considering the treatment solely for epilepsy (Victoria), or only when conventional treatment has been unsuccessful (Tasmania).