Patient guide to accessing medicinal cannabis
Medicinal cannabis may be approved if you have already tried the conventional treatments available for a reasonable period of time and these have failed, or if the effects of the conventional treatment proves to be intolerable for you. Your doctor will need to provide scientific evidence that the proposed type of medicinal cannabis is effective for your condition or symptoms.
There are 3 ways to access medicinal cannabis:
- specialist doctors can prescribe specific products to treat groups of patients with particular conditions (patient-class prescriber pathway)
- your general practitioner or medical specialist applies for approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis treatment just to you (single-patient prescriber pathway)
- if you meet the eligibility criteria for current clinical trials in Queensland.
As there are currently no businesses licensed to manufacture medicinal cannabis in Australia, these products need to be imported.
You cannot legally produce your own cannabis for medicinal use. Queensland does not have an amnesty scheme.
Once Queensland Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have approved the application to prescribe, your doctor can legally import medicinal cannabis under the Special Access Scheme (Category B).
Medicinal cannabis is not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) so you will need to pay for all expenses.
How to access
- Talk to your doctor about whether medicinal cannabis may be suitable for your condition or symptoms. You will need to give informed consent.
- If your doctor believes that it would be effective, they can contact Queensland Health for approval to prescribe.
- If Queensland Health approves the application, your doctor then applies to the TGA for approval to allow supply of the product
- Once the TGA has approved, your doctor arranges for a pharmacist to dispense the medication for you.
Conditions that may benefit
Current limited evidence suggests that medicinal cannabis may be suitable to treat:
- severe muscular spasms and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- some types of epilepsy with severe seizures
- palliative care (loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, pain).
There is no evidence that medicinal cannabis is an effective treatment for cancer. You should not:
- consider medicinal cannabis as an alternative treatment for cancer
- defer the standard treatment in favour of using medicinal cannabis.
Rural and remote patients
If you live in a rural or remote area, access to medicinal cannabis will be through either your GP or a specialist. You may be able to access specialist consultations through a telehealth service. Generally, your GP will prescribe medicinal cannabis in consultation with the specialist.
You cannot drive while taking medicinal cannabis
Research has shown that cannabis use has an effect on a person’s driving ability. Unlike alcohol, there is generally no applicable concentration of cannabis that can be identified as an indicator of impairment. It is illegal for any patient being treated with medicinal cannabis containing THC to drive while undergoing treatment. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
Queensland Health is working with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to ensure that the regulation of medicinal cannabis is consistent with relevant transport legislation.