The use of medical cannabis was introduced in Australia under the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 which made legal access possible through prescription. Now Australia takes another step towards medical marijuana, consumers will now be able to buy CBD oil at pharmacies from June 2021.
This step is an attempt by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to extend better access to cannabidiol (CBD) products to the people.
A substantial portion of CBD demand has been misused by the black market in the past. This move will drive the consumers to buy CBD products through legal ways and also destigmatize the prejudice around its usage.
According to GP Dr Vicki Kotsirilos who is the first authorised prescriber of CBD products, this step will make it easier for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis. It will also widen the scope of safe access to people.
Many people are caught between the debates over whether they should buy CBD oil from a pharmacy or through the doctor’s prescription. Here is an overview of these two legal possibilities of buying CBD oil in Australia.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD or cannabidiol is a chemical compound that is extracted from the leaves, stalk, and stem of the hemp plant. Another chemical compound found in the cannabis or marijuana plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD is different from THC because of its psychoactive properties which have therapeutic potential and can help in the treatment of various ailments.
As the research on CBD oil is still emerging, there is no predetermined list of ailments; however, it has been prescribed for pain relief, anxiety, depression, and inflammation among other conditions.
CBD is not going to induce euphoria or get you high as it is a non-psychoactive compound. This misconception probably rose from the fact that marijuana has both CBD and THC and the latter is a psychoactive compound.
Some of the psychoactive products which are legally available are alcohol, caffeine, and some prescription medications.
The treatment and results differ based on the medical needs and health condition of a person. This is why the opinion of an authorised practitioner is key to the prescription. A doctor is the best judge for a person’s requirement and eligibility to use medical cannabis.
There are various ways to consume cannabidiol including inhaling it through a vape pen, applying it directly to the skin, or consuming it orally as an oil. It has fat solubility and this is why it can be easily dissolved into a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
While ingesting it as oil, people are supposed to keep the oil under their tongue for at least thirty seconds before swallowing it. Consuming it orally in the form of oil has long-lasting results, makes it easier for the body to absorb and you can easily measure the dosage.
CBD Oil in Australia Before June 2021
Initially, a dosage of medicinal cannabis could only be prescribed by a medicinal practitioner. It is based on their assessment of the patient’s health condition which varies from person to person.
Judging by the patient’s health summary, medications, and previous treatments, the effectiveness of medical cannabis is determined. Your medical history helps to expedite the process and understand your health condition.
With such a stigma and many regulations attached to the consumption of cannabis, patients find it difficult to even consider medicinal marijuana as an alternative treatment solution. Along with this, the illegal, black market trade of marijuana aggravates this situation by misleading consumers into buying bad quality CBD products.
Many trusted medical communities and organisations ease the process of obtaining medicinal cannabis treatment. It is delivered to you at your doorstep and comes with quality assurance which saves the patient from going through unnecessary hassles.
Any doctor in Australia is eligible to use the Special Access Scheme of Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). They have to write an application that highlights their professional opinion and confirms the patient’s requirement of a medicinal cannabis product.
CBD Oil in Australia Post-June 2021
Although the new products are yet to be approved for sale, there will be some changes in the formulation of the new CBD products. With no more than 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the oil cannot induce euphoria or make you feel high. Adults will be allowed up to 150 mm of maximum dosage per day.
By introducing these new low-dose CBD products, TGA is also making them schedule 3 drugs from schedule 4. Schedule 4 medicines cannot be bought without a doctor’s prescription while Schedule 3 medicines can be bought over the counter without any prescription. This is a significant change in the history of medical cannabis.
The Opinion of the Health Industry
TGA’s decision to down-scheduling CBD products has not been seen favourably by the Australian Medical Association (AMA). The Cannabis industry of Australia is considerably young which needs to be backed by more research and data. AMA stated in an interview that pharmacists lack the expertise to advise people over the consumption of medical cannabis.
When doctors advise their patients, they also monitor the side effects which are recorded as part of medical data. Buying from a pharmacy also leaves the risk of missing the side effects.
The Opinion of the Cannabis Industry
This has been considered a major milestone since the legalisation in 2016. Many cannabis industry consultants believe that it is going to change the way patients access cannabis.
Before this, a patient had to explain his health condition to the GP who would advise the use of medical marijuana as the last resort. It also demanded a special request to the TGA from the GP.
Down-scheduling will make sure that the products are not harmful. As the low-dose product will be made while keeping the safety guidelines in mind.
However, there is still a long way to go as the production of a schedule 3 drug will take new studies and research into consideration.
On the Bright Side
Over-the-counter access will see a movement away from the black market. This is something that both the health experts and the commercial cannabis industry would agree upon. Before 2021, the only way to use cannabis for its health potential was through a medical prescription of an authorised GP.
Production of CBD products demands high standards of manufacturing and compliance with quality. After all, it is being used as a medicine that needs to adhere to consistency and keep in mind the health effects on its consumers.
The black market grossly flouts all the norms and regulations of productions and is simply driven by profit. This means that the CBD product that you’re buying can be completely ineffective, inconsistent, and even harm your body.
It is cheaper but it also holds the risk of being contaminated by adulterants like heavy metals, bacteria, fungus, or pesticides.
TGA is well aware of the fact that many companies misuse the unavailability of CBD products and how people end up resorting to illegal means to purchase those.
Before 2021, most of the means to acquire CBD products, whether within Australia or through overseas sources or online portals were illegal.
Prescribed cannabis oil is made while keeping ethical manufacturing standards in mind. This is also for the first time that the cost of medical cannabis production will come down to those of their illegal counterparts. This will also encourage people to seek legal channels, ideally, health experts and if not, then pharmacies.
This change will come into effect from June 2021, however, there will be some time before we see a CBD product on the shelves of pharmacies. Companies are yet to get their products registered and approved as schedule 3 medicine.
There is also a need for more research and data on the efficacy of low-dose CBD medicine. Until then it is advisable to consult a doctor and get your CBD product after a proper understanding of your health condition.