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)
- Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 (Qld)
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 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 The approvals may be withdrawn and the matter referred to police for investigation.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.
Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016
The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 was passed by Queensland Parliament on 12 October 2016 and commenced on 1 March 2017.
The Act creates a regulatory framework to allow medicinal cannabis products to be prescribed and dispensed to patients in Queensland and prevent unauthorised use of these products. Any cannabis used outside of the regulatory framework is illegal.
The Act balances allowing greater use of medicinal cannabis products, and ensuring medicinal cannabis products are used safely and not diverted for unlawful purposes.
Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulation 2017
The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulation 2017 describes patient-class prescribers, the class of patients to be treated, and the medicinal cannabis products to be prescribed. It commenced on 1 March 2017 and prescribes matters to support the operation of the Act and includes provisions covering:
- prescribing and dispensing
- standard conditions that apply to approvals
- applications for manufacturing and wholesaling approvals
- record-keeping, prescriptions and storage, packaging and labelling of medicinal cannabis
- requirements for complying with a relevant code, guideline, protocol or standard.
The regulatory framework will be reviewed after 2 years to:
- ensure it is meeting the needs of patients, health service providers and enforcement agencies
- reflect any developments in the evidence-base.
Monitoring and enforcement
The Act includes monitoring and enforcement controls to ensure medicinal cannabis products are not used illegally. These controls are consistent with other legislation.
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
- contacting the prescriber and pharmacist who dispensed the medication to determine the validity of the prescription
- checking with Queensland Health: records are held for patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis.
Clause 210(c) of the Act authorises the Chief Executive, approved pharmacist or secondary dispenser, patient-class prescriber, or single to disclose this information to an authorised person or police officer for the purpose of preventing or investigating an offence involving medicinal cannabis.
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 this Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulation 2017.
An advertisement includes any verbal or written statements, pictures or designs that are intended to promote the administration, issue, prescription, sale, supply or use of medicinal cannabis. This includes public statements, media interviews on radio, television or newspapers and promotional material provided online in websites.
The Regulations do 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 medical 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.