Medicinal cannabis legislation and compliance
The Queensland controls around medicinal cannabis balance allowing treatment with medicinal cannabis and the necessary controls to ensure medicinal cannabis products are not used illegally.
These controls are consistent with other legislation.
Illegal cannabis use
Growing your own cannabis and recreational use of cannabis is still illegal under:
- Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Commonwealth)
- Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (Commonwealth)
- Queensland Drugs Misuse Act 1986
- Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR)
Users of illicit cannabis may be subject to drug offences under the Drug Misuse Act 1986 including unlawful possession, supply, production and trafficking of a dangerous drug. The maximum penalties for these crimes range from 15 to 25 years imprisonment, depending on the amount of cannabis involved and circumstances of the offence.
Medicinal cannabis is only legal if prescribed by a doctor with the necessary state and Commonwealth authority/approvals. Any use beyond the prescribed way of using the drug becomes an offence and may attract both administrative and criminal penalties. The approvals may be withdrawn, and the matter referred to police for investigation. For example:
- the prescribed medicinal cannabis is given to an unauthorised third party
- medicinal cannabis that is prescribed to be vapourised but is then smoked may be considered an offence.
Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996
The Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR) prescribes controls over the possession, supply, administration and other activities for substances listed in the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons. It details who can carry out regulated activities with scheduled medicines in Queensland.
The purpose of the legislation is to promote and protect public health and safety by:
- restricting access to certain medicines and poisons to authorised persons for specified uses
- specifying minimum requirements of persons accessing and using medicines and poisons
- specifying requirements for packaging, labelling, storage, advertising, sale and disposal, of medicines and poisons
- maintaining the traceability of medicines and poisons throughout the supply chain promoting the safe and effective use of medicines and poisons by consumers.
Monitoring and enforcement
The Health Act 1937 includes monitoring and enforcement controls to ensure scheduled medicines including medicinal cannabis products are not used illegally. These controls are consistent with other legislation.
Inspectors (authorised persons) can be appointed with the authority to enter places (pharmacies, medical practices) to monitor compliance with the conditions upon which medicinal cannabis treatment has been authorised or approved. An authorised person is also empowered to seize evidence of an offence against the Act.
If an authorised person or a police officer finds a person in possession of a cannabis product, they can determine if the product is an authorised medicinal cannabis product by:
- checking the label of the product packaging: medicinal cannabis dispensed legally will be labelled as a lawful prescription from a pharmacy, or
- contacting the prescriber and pharmacist who dispensed the medication to determine the validity of the prescription.
Restrictions on advertising medicinal cannabis
The advertising of medicinal cannabis products is restricted to the wholesale, medical and pharmaceutical professions only by State and Commonwealth laws. Advertising or promoting medicinal cannabis is a breach of the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996.
A person must not advertise, or cause someone else to advertise, a substance that is or contains a controlled drug, whether the controlled drug (S8) or restricted drug (S4) is named in the advertisement.
The Regulation does allow for price lists, advertisements and promotional material to be provided to the wholesale drug trade or medical or pharmaceutical professionals and advertisement in a professional or trade journals.
However, when advertising or promoting medicinal cannabis and or medicinal cannabis products it must be done in a way that limits its circulation to wholesale, medical and pharmaceutical professions only. Any advertising on a company website outside of that specified in the Regulation or that is directed at potential patients or accessible by the public is a contravention of the Regulation and may be subject to penalties.
The advertising of therapeutic goods to consumers and health practitioners is also controlled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and self-regulation through Codes of Practice administered by the relevant therapeutic goods industry associations. In all cases the advertising of therapeutic goods should be directed exclusively to health professionals.