Does Australia being realistic on medical cannabis?

Australia is in its own way

A new gold-rush is developing in Australia and it’s set to impact our near future – the impact would well be felt over the next decade. Surprisingly, the UK is the world’s largest exporter of Medical Marijuana at the moment, despite the product being illegal to consume in any way, within those countries. Australia wants to challenge them and start growing legal cannabis for both domestic and export markets.

We have the climate for it, near perfect weather with long days and humid air – both things that growing marijuana plants love. So what’s the problem?

The major hurdle facing this new industry is to overcome the lengthy (some say over-zealous) regulatory hurdles. It’s a balancing act for the government which wants to see the industry grow wings but also has to appease the multiple different factions that wish to oppose, or restrict, public access to cannabis in both its Medical and recreational forms.

Before we get in to this, a disclaimer: This is a hobby website. We do not offer legal advice. Our goal here is to outline some of the key facts about the industry at this time. Make sure you check the facts to your own satisfaction. Feel free to write to us and correct us – we would love to hear from you.

Over-regulation of the industry

With a (National) license and a permit, Australian companies can now grow marijuana for medical use although the path is far from well trodden which presents a natural sense of unease for those considering the option.

  • Marijuana is still illegal (without the permit and license):
    Any business seeking to invest in the growth and export of medical marijuana would take a deep breath and along, clear, hard look at the legislation which was in place before starting. Cannabis is still an illegal product in Australia and no legitimate business would wish to infringe the law in any way.
  • Overlapping jurisdictions:
    Existing legislation has been changed already. State and federal laws have already been amended with a view to facilitating the new goal. Multiple regulatory bodies are involved. For example, in New South Wales, a local permit is required to grow cannabis, as well as the National / Federal license. Regulatory bodies involved include the Office Of Drug Control, The Theraputic Goods Administration, state and federal governments.
  • Making Australia great again:
    Before he resigned, Health Minister Greg Hunt made it a condition that Australian Medical Marijuana license holders (for those both growing and those exporting medical cannabis) were obliged to make their product available to all Australian patients who required it first.

As there are an estimated 3 million patients suffering from conditions that cause chronic pain in Australia this may be a hard condition to full, especially in the short term.

FACT: Unfortunately, most GPs and other Doctors have very limited knowledge about cannabis, especially how and when to prescribe it.

Resistance of Doctors to prescribe Cannabis

  • Doctor Reluctance:
    Many Doctors are cautious about prescribing medical cannabis as they do not yet have any experience in this field. To write a prescription, a doctor has to be an ‘Authorised prescriber’, marijuana has to be on the list of therapeutic goods and, in Australia at the moment, it appears that marijuana has been added to the Theraputic Goods list as part of a subset of medicines which have not been approved for use (and can therefore be prescribed!)
  • Judged by results, regulation is not working:
    It is a fact that only a hand full of patients to date have been granted prescriptions for medical cannabis. The limited number of people who have benefitted does, to a degree, show how confused the circumstances are.
  • Doctors Not Politicians:
    Most people feel it should be left up to individual Doctors to determine what is in the medical interests of their customers. Every patient is unique and has individual needs and the Doctor is in the best position to judge these things.
  • Education: 
    Unfortunately, most GPs and other Doctors have very limited knowledge about cannabis, especially how and when to prescribe it. The illegality of the drug has made it almost impossible (in a practical sense) to perform the analysis required to judge the circumstances in which the net effect of its use might be positive.
  • There is progress on training:
    The government and The Australian Medical Association, along with The College of GPs are working together to ensure that new and existing doctors have the full information they need to determine if prescribing medical cannabis is suitable and best for their patients.

Resistance from the Medical profession and Big Pharma

  • There are adequate drugs already available, without marijiana:
    There has already been a huge amount resistance by big Pharma and multinational Interests to try and stop the legalized growing of Cannabis in Australia. Some argue that existing drugs can achieve the same effects as cannabis and have been through the required medical tests and signoff process. The concern from pharmacitical companies is understandable. With legalized medical cannabis, big pharma stands to lose billions of dollars
  • The process is too complicated:
    The medical profession and many Doctors have expressed unwillingness to prescribe cannabis because of the special access arrangements they must follow and the restrictions placed on them by the government for the broader use of the different form of cannabis
  • Cannabis can pose a health risk – especially to those with mental illness:
    A Leading recognized authority atTrinity College Dublin, Department of Psychiatry Professor Brendan Kelly has stated that The scientific evidence has now become very clear that cannabis is bad for people’s mental health. Professor Kelly believe that an overwhelming majority of the studies undertaken, demonstrate that cannabis can increase the risk depression, schizophrenia and some anxiety disorders.
  • What is not clear:
    The reason why not everyone is equally affected by cannabis. Some peoples’ mental health seems unaffected. It appears clear that other factors are relevant in each individual case, making a ‘standard’ prescription hard to prepare.

Bring it all together

More well-constructed and controlled studies about the effects and potential medical advantages could to be a long way off. It is hard to see how the Australian legal, medical cannabis industry can develop to its full potential, under the collection of laws and restrictive legislation, now in place across federal and local government laws.

Against this background, Australia faces fierce competition from Israel and other Countries. Israel at present leads the world in the growing and technical development of Medical Cannabis and are expected to dominate in this field for years to come. If Australia is to be realistic about the development and export of Cannabis, it will need to learn from Isreal and other countries about the right sort of legal and regulatory frameworks to establish around the goal.

The current circumstance amounts to a shame. Growth of the legal Australian medical cannabis industry could provide the government a tax windfall and avaluable tool to enhance the wellbeing of it’s population. Unfortunately, it is unclear at this point how or in which ways medical cannabis will be taxed. Again, internationally, indications are that California, in the US, is reaping several billion dollars taxation a year directly from legal medical marijuana sales. One effect of the failure to legislate effectively is the maintenance of a black-market. People still take cannabis, they just to it illegally. Many patients would turn to using cheaper black-market cannabis, where the strength and quality was not known or controlled, leading possibly to abuse problems, the use of the drug in circumstances which are not appropriate and the potential for those who might suffer a negative impact on their mental health.

Where can you get more information.

Published by Neil

Neil believes Cannabis has medical benefits and should be prescribed by a Doctor. This site aims to provide accurate information on the science and legality of Cannabis so you can make informed decisions.

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