Medical cannabis is a legal substance in New South Wales (NSW). However, it’s still heavily regulated by the government to ensure safe, high-quality treatment for patients. The specific legislation surrounding medicinal cannabis prescriptions and products may differ slightly depending on your state. By staying updated on the latest rules and regulations, patients, prescribers, and pharmacists can make informed decisions about treatment and care.

Is medical cannabis legal in New South Wales?

Medical cannabis has been a legal option for medical treatment in New South Wales since 2016. This was the result of  an Australia-wide piece of legislation that allowed cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. Any prescriber in NSW is at liberty to prescribe cannabis medicine if they believe it’s a viable treatment option and they have attained the correct approvals. Approvals come from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and from NSW Health in some cases. Even with approvals, the production, distribution, and consumption of medicinal cannabis is still heavily regulated across Australia.

Medical cannabis prescriptions in NSW

Medical cannabis may only be accessed legally in New South Wales through a prescription. It’s not quite the same as getting a prescription for antibiotics or other medicine, because the doctor must either apply for TGA approval or be an Authorised Prescriber. Approvals are required to prescribe unregistered Schedule 8 cannabis products (products that are not featured on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods). If medical practitioners wish to prescribe cannabis to a child or drug-dependent person, they’ll need separate approval from NSW Health. Doctors cannot give you a prescription until they have obtained the relevant licenses.

Medical cannabis supply in New South Wales

Only licensed manufacturers or suppliers can supply medical cannabis in New South Wales. These licenses come from the Office of Drug Control (ODC) and allow the manufacturer to cultivate and produce medicinal cannabis. Production must comply with the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008, and meet the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards set by the TGA.

Medical cannabis eligibility in New South Wales

Doctors in NSW may prescribe medicinal cannabis if they feel it will benefit your health condition. When discussing treatment, doctors will consider your current health concerns and medical history to determine the right cannabis product for you. Medicinal cannabis could generally be prescribed if your condition has persisted for more than a few months and all other treatments have been exhausted.

Medical cannabis in workplaces NSW

Although medicinal cannabis is legal in New South Wales, there are certain considerations to explore when it comes to your workplace. Employers are required to approach employees with medical cannabis prescriptions in the same way as other employers with prescription medicines. You may need to supply a medical certificate or other evidence of your prescription and a doctor’s note confirming your ability to perform daily duties. Many workplaces do not allow staff to work while undergoing treatment with products containing THC, as THC has psychoactive properties and may impair cognitive function. If driving is a requirement for work then this may also be a consideration depending on your state and company policies. It’s important to discuss your company’s drug policies with your employers before starting treatment.

Travelling with medical cannabis in New South Wales

It is generally safe to travel with medical cannabis within NSW as long as you hold a valid prescription. You may be required to provide evidence of this prescription or a medical note. For any travel, including interstate travel, you’ll have to keep your medical cannabis in the same bottle or container it was prescribed in, with all labels intact so your name and details are visible. You could also request a letter from your doctor outlining your prescription, how much cannabis you’ll be carrying, and what dosage you take. Even though medicinal cannabis is legal across Australia, authorities still might require proof of your prescription. If you’re planning on travelling overseas, check your destination’s drug policies very carefully. Some countries still consider cannabis possession to be an offence, even if you have a valid prescription in Australia.

Driving with medical cannabis in NSW

It is illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your system in New South Wales. Since THC can affect your cognitive function, it’s unsafe to drive or operate heavy machinery. Keep in mind THC sometimes takes days to leave your system fully, and current police roadside testing procedures for cannabis don’t test impairment, just the presence of THC. You are allowed to drive while undergoing treatment with CBD only products, but many of these products still contain THC when they are obtained online illicitly. If you rely on driving for everyday activities, like getting to work, you may need to discuss treatment options with your medical practitioner.

Medical cannabis cost in New South Wales

The exact cost of medical cannabis in NSW depends on the product and dosage. The average price could be between $250 and $300 a month, factoring in doctor consultations. Unfortunately, medicinal cannabis isn’t usually covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or public health insurers like Medicare. However, some insurers include cannabis medicines as part of their extras cover, but they don’t always advertise this, so check with your insurer directly to confirm what rebates you’re eligible for. Another way to access medicinal cannabis at a reduced cost could be by participating in a clinical trial. Speak with your doctor if you’re interested in participating in a medical cannabis trial.

Medical cannabis pharmacies in NSW

Any pharmacist in New South Wales can dispense medical cannabis as long as the prescriber has the right approvals from the TGA and NSW Health. Before giving out medicinal cannabis, pharmacists need to verify the prescriber and confirm the prescription is valid. If you hold a valid prescription, you should be able to have your medicine dispensed at any pharmacy in NSW. When travelling interstate, check the local cannabis legislation to see if you can have your prescription filled in another state.

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Medical cannabis in the rest of Australia

In the Australian Capital Territory, medicinal cannabis is allowed on a case-by-case basis. In appropriate situations, you may possess, distribute, and consume cannabis with the correct license, permit, or prescription.  To prescribe medicinal cannabis, doctors need to have approval from both the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the ACT chief health officer. This is separate from the ACT’s changes to state laws in 2020, allowing the use of cannabis for personal use in certain amounts.

We’ve broken down all the rules and regulations for residents of the Australian Capital Territory.

Medical Cannabis in the ACT

In the Northern Territory, medicinal cannabis is legal with a prescription. In November 2019, the first NT resident received a medicinal cannabis prescription.  However, many patients in the NT will need to find a telehealth doctor in another state because there are few authorised prescribers based locally, and the area’s remote nature makes it difficult for residents to travel to the right doctors.

Medical Cannabis in NT

Registered medical practitioners are allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis in Queensland if it’s medically necessary. In the past, they had to get approval from the Commonwealth. However, new legislation in 2020 determined that any Queensland medical practitioner could prescribe Schedule 4 CBD or Schedule 8 THC or CBD oil without approval from health authorities.

Medical Cannabis in QLD

You can get medicinal cannabis in South Australia with a prescription. The prescription needs to come from an authorised SA medical practitioner. In some cases, the practitioner must seek approval under South Australian Controlled Substances legislation. This approval is subject to exceptions such as elderly people or terminally ill patients.

Medical Cannabis in SA

Medical practitioners can prescribe medicinal cannabis in Tasmania if they feel it’s the best course of treatment for a patient. To do this, they must acquire approval from the Commonwealth and state authorities.

Medical Cannabis in TAS

In the state of Victoria, medicinal cannabis is legal when prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner, usually with Commonwealth or state approval. Medicinal cannabis is prescribed when the doctor feels it will be beneficial to the patient. Beginning in 2022, practitioners can prescribe Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis to non-drug dependent patients without a Schedule 8 treatment permit.

Medical Cannabis in VIC

Prescriptions for medicinal cannabis can be given by any prescriber in WA if they have the appropriate government approval. Prescriptions need to align with the Medicines and Poisons legislation. As long as a WA-based medical practitioner provides your prescription, it can be dispensed at any pharmacy in the state.

Medical Cannabis in Perth & WA
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