What Is the Law Concerning Online Purchases of Medical Cannabis Products?

A brief history on medical cannabis laws

In 1996, the state of California became the first in the United States of America to legalize marijuana for medical use. It legalised marijuana to serve as a treatment for several conditions and symptoms of diseases such as Cancer and AIDS.

Closely following the lead of California, states such as Alaska and Oregon legalized medical marijuana before the turn of the century. Thus begun the road to the legalization of medical marijuana in the U.S.A. Today, the consumption of cannabis for medical purposes is legal in 33 U.S states and Washington D.C., whereas in 10 of those states and Washington D.C., cannabis is legal for recreational purposes.

Courts ruled in favour of Canadians using cannabis for medical purposes in the year 2000. Since then, in 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to fully legalise marijuana, following the South American country, Uruguay.


A growing number of countries around the world have legalised or decriminalised cannabis possession. Source

In Australia, the use of cannabis for medical purposes presents a complicated history. That was until February 2016, when the Australian parliament passed into law a bill which would allow cannabis be legally grown for medical and scientific purposes. 

Prior to this bill, some cannabis-based medications such as Sativex were available for use in the treatment of certain diseases. However, the use of cannabis for medical purposes was highly restricted. The bill passed in 2016 is an amendment to the already existing Narcotics Drug Act of 1967


Laws concerning online purchases of Medical Cannabis products

On purchasing medical cannabis online, the laws differ according to factors such as state and geographical territory. There are set laws which govern its distribution process – such as postal laws and regulations. However, a bulk of the laws on the sale of medical marijuana online is governed per geographical location.



Mailing cannabis is becoming very popular. Source

There is very little concerning the precise mechanisms which govern the sale of medical marijuana online. Many online medical dispensaries – which are usually state owned/regulated – follow the generic laws governing the sale of cannabis in the state.

  • In the United States, cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes in 33 out of 50 states. In all states – except Washington – medical users are required to register with the state in order to obtain a Medical Marijuana Card. This Medical Marijuana Card allows patients obtain marijuana from allocated physical dispensaries and online dispensaries. Patients are also required to register with the state-owned online dispensaries in order to access and purchase marijuana.
    In many states – including Maine and Arkansas – the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is only granted for specific conditions. This is unlike California where medical marijuana can be prescribed for any ailment, according to the recommendations of the physician.
    In some jurisdictions, medical marijuana cards can only function within their geographical territories. Outside these territories, these cards will not be able to give their owners the ability to purchase marijuana online.
  • In Canada, the situation bears semblance to that of the United States. The laws concerning the sale and distribution of medical cannabis via online stores are set according to state and provincial governments. However, since cannabis is fully legal in Canada, the laws governing its online acquisition are lax compared to the U.S.
    Under Health Canada commercial licensing, it is legal to produce, distribute and sell cannabis online. All interested sellers need to do is apply for a license after which they can service either medical or recreational users – or both.
    The Canada Post, a major postal service which operates country wide, has been delivering medical marijuana safely since 2013. The Canada Post often works in conjunction with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Health Canada in order to safely disburse medical cannabis to patients across Canada.

  • In Australia, provisions for the use of cannabis for medical purposes are provided in the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA) under the Special Acts Scheme. In order to access medical marijuana – an unapproved TGA substance – a patient has to fall under at least one of three categories:

    • Category A – A Patient Notified as Seriously Ill.
    • Category B – Application Pathway
    • Category C – Notification of Use of Therapeutic Goods
    In Australia currently, it is a rigorous process to obtain a medical marijuana license. The Medical Cannabis Services Australia allows prospective patients apply for a screening on its website. The screening is then completed at home or in a clinic of choice. Should the patient fall under one of the three categories, a medical marijuana license is issued. The prescription is then dispatched to a local pharmacy where patients have the option of picking up or home delivery. This is the closest operation in resemblance to an online dispensary in Australia.


Final Words

Online dispensaries are fast taking over the world of medicinal cannabis. This can be attributed to the conveniences associated with filling your prescription from the comfort of your immediate surroundings. The laws which govern the use of medical marijuana differ according to the set geographical locations – even within the same country.


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