CBD: Legal in Australia, but legally hard to get
Can you legally buy CBD in Australia? You might be surprised to learn that the answer is yes - but is pretty much inaccessible.
Despite the legalisation of cannabis for medical use in 2016, CBD’s legality still remains a debate in Australia. CBD is legal in Australia and available only via prescription. But residents are unable to obtain and use it because of the strict criteria underpinning its access. CBD products are limited to only a small number of patients suffering from very specific medical conditions.
Red tape and bureaucracy has made it challenging for Australians to obtain a CBD prescription, and there are fewer doctors eligible to write a prescription. Since its rescheduling in 2016, CBD has been prescribed to just over 500 patients.
Views on medical cannabis in Australia, as of 2016 Source
What exactly is CBD and how is it different from THC?
The cannabis plant consists of over 113 chemical components known as cannabinoids. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two best known of these components.
The human body contains CB1 in the brain and CB2 receptors in other types of cells for cannabinoids. We have receptors because our body naturally produces endocannabinoids. THC affects the CB1 receptors and causes the ‘HIGH’ effect.
On the other hand, CBD affects both types of receptors and is pharmaceutically active. CBD is a non-psychoactive substance, which means it won’t get the user high. It is CBD that makes cannabis plant useful for medical applications. CBD is available primarily in the form of oils and a few other products.
CBD is gaining momentum in the health and wellness industry, backed by many scientific studies confirming its effectiveness in the treatment of a variety of ailments. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that CBD may be helpful in the medical treatment of pain related to debilitating diseases, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and much more.
Rescheduling of CBD Oil as Schedule 4 Drug
Though recreational cannabis still remains a scheduled 9 drug, CBD was reclassified as a schedule 4 drug in October 2017. It means CBD products should contain 2 percent or less of other cannabinoids found in cannabis and can be accessed only as a prescription medicine.
As of October 2017, just 153 patients nationwide have been prescribed CBD products. Only about 30 Australian doctors have Authorized Prescriber status. While the numbers of legal prescriptions are low, figures show that more than 100,000 nationals are using cannabis illegally to treat their medical conditions.
As of March 2017, there were only 23 doctors in Australia authorized to prescribe Epidiolex, a legal cannabidol product; that is equal to around one doctor per 1 million people. The low numbers of doctors available to prescribe cannabis products makes the medicine effectively unavailable, with many claiming the lack of access to a medical product that can alleviate their symptoms is unjust. The inaccessibility of legal CBD oil and other CBD products means that Australians are forced to suffer in silence or risk a conviction by going to the black market.
Revamped SAS Scheme Brings Hope
Fortunately, with much of the U.S.A. and Europe now relaxing their cannabis regulations, Australia recently decided to give more people increased access to CBD by improving their SAS (Special Access Scheme) scheme.
In July 2018, the Australian government announced their revised SAS scheme. The SAS scheme refers to arrangements for the import and/or supply of unapproved therapeutic goods, including CBD, for a single patient, on a case-by-case basis. All prescribing doctors and prescribed cannabis products have to be registered with the SAS scheme.
According to the new scheme, prescribing doctors in certain states and territories can now register under the SAS to become eligible for prescribing medical CBD to their patients. As a result, many more Australians will now be able to access CBD oil and other CBD products.
Many people around the world are campaigning for access so they can reap the benefits of CBD’s potential to treat a variety of medical conditions.
CBD product efficacy vs. traditional medications. Source
Increasing access to CBD, particularly when the product is technically legal, means that seriously sick Australians will have access to a safe, effective drug , and stops them having to turn to the black market.
CBD is continually growing in popularity and social acceptance due to increased awareness of its benefits for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Researchers are working hard to explore its benefits, but Australians already know that CBD products can be used as natural remedies for many diseases.