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Home Regulation How to get medical cannabis in Australia
Sep 22, 2020 3 min read

How to get medical cannabis in Australia

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by Ben Hartman
The Sydney Opera House in Australia

Medical cannabis has been legal for patients in all of Australia since 2016, although recreational use has been decriminalized in several states and even legalized in the capital territory. This article gives step-by-step instructions for how to get a medical cannabis prescription in Australia.

The country’s medical marijuana approval process is considered strict and more restrictive and difficult to gain approval than many other programs around the world

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Nonetheless, in August, Australia’s Department of Health stated that it was on pace to approve at least 70,000 cannabis prescriptions this year, according to a report in the Marijuana Business Daily.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the approval of medical cannabis prescriptions in the country. Approval is granted by way of two routes: the Authorized Prescriber Scheme (APS), and the Special Access Scheme (SAS). 

How to get medical marijuana in Australia

Any doctor can prescribe medical cannabis in Australia, and prospective patients do not have to go to a specialist. Medical cannabis is not covered under the country’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme so patients must pay the full cost of the products purchased. 

An Australian doctor with a flag mask
The patient does not submit an application, rather, their doctor submits one to on their behalf. (Peter Kováč/123rf)

1. Meet with your doctor about your condition

Unlike in many other countries, in Australia the patient does not submit an application, rather, their doctor submits one to the TGA on their behalf. A patient must first schedule an appointment with their doctor and describe why they believe that medical marijuana could help their health condition. 

2. Have your physician submit a request 

If the presiding doctor determines that medical marijuana could help their patient, they can then submit an application to the TGA which certifies that the patient has a health condition that could be appropriate for the use of medical cannabis. The doctor will most likely have to attach some form of clinical justification as part of the application.

In some Australian states the approval process can be somewhat more restrictive. For instance in Tasmania, if a patient’s general practitioner believes that conventional treatment has failed and a cannabis product could help, they must then refer the patient to a relevant medical specialist who will determine whether or not to apply to the TGA on the patient’s behalf. 

3. Go to a licensed pharmacy

In addition to submitting the application, in Australia the physician must also arrange for a pharmacy to dispense the medication to the patient in question. 

Who can get a medical card in Australia?

The justification provided by the physician must detail “the seriousness of the patient’s condition, consideration for the use of medicines that are included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) and the potential risks and benefits of using the proposed unapproved medicine.”

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The application submitted by the doctor must also detail the patients’ symptom or diagnosis and “details of relevant past treatment and procedures trialled or considered, including reasons why therapeutic goods currently included in the ARTG may not be the most appropriate treatment for the individual patient in the particular circumstance.”

Qualifying health conditions for medical marijuana in Australia

Unlike in many other jurisdictions, there is no set list of medical conditions which can qualify a patient for medical marijuana. As of today medical cannabis has been approved for dozens of conditions in Australia included but not limited to:

Do you have a medical marijuana prescription in Australia? Let us know in the comments below how the process went for you.

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