Medicinal cannabis products
In Australia, medicinal cannabis refers to regulated products that:
- are specifically used for therapeutic purposes
- have a consistent dose and cannabinoid amount
- meet the standard for cultivation and manufacture developed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
- are not contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, fungi, or moulds.
Doctors can apply to prescribe both plant-based products and synthetic products. When used for a therapeutic purpose, these forms would be considered:
- tinctures: plant material infused in oil or alcohol
- vapour: dried plant material or concentrated cannabis extract is heated in a vaporiser
- capsules or sprays: generally oil-based capsules taken orally
- pharmaceutical products such as nabilone and nabiximols.
Growing your own medicinal cannabis remains illegal
Home-grown cannabis products have unknown concentrations of active ingredients and contain potentially harmful contaminants. These home-grown products are easily diverted into the illicit drug market. Medicinal cannabis products need to be consistent, contaminant-free and high-quality, so doctors can make safe prescribing and dosage decisions.
Australian products are not available yet
Currently, legal medicinal cannabis products are not made in Australia. These must be imported from overseas, usually from either Canada or the Netherlands.
Under the Commonwealth licensing scheme, Australian medicinal cannabis products will become available in the future. This will make it easier for patients to access products that are safe and appropriate.
Patients will not be approved to smoke cannabis, as this exposes them to many of the same health risks as smoking regular cigarettes.
Doctors seeking approval to use a specific product will need to provide evidence of its safety and efficacy for the condition or symptom being treated.
Patients being treated with a medicinal cannabis product containing THC will not be able to drive or operate heavy machinery during their treatment.
Cost of products
Medicinal cannabis is not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) so patients will need to pay for all expenses.
Because legal medicinal cannabis products are currently not available in Australia, they must be imported from overseas. The cost of these products depends on the particular product, source, shipping expenses, and customs fees.
The Queensland Government will not:
- subsidise the cost of importing medicinal cannabis for individual treatment
- regulate the price for supply of approved products to patients.
However, if a patient is enrolled in a clinical trial, the cost of the medication is covered by the trial.