In 2016, Australia made medical cannabis legal across the country, including in South Australia (SA). However, the particulars of this legislation varies from state to state. It’s important for patients, medical practitioners, and pharmacists to be up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations surrounding medical cannabis. From workplace drug policies to treatment eligibility, having the right information helps you stay informed.

Is medical cannabis legal in South Australia?

Medical cannabis has been legal in South Australia since 2016. This came as part of nationwide legislation that legalised cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. Registered medical practitioners can now prescribe cannabis products to patients as long as they have the correct government approvals and licenses. Even with this legislation, medicinal cannabis prescription, production, distribution, and consumption across Australia, including SA, is heavily regulated.

Medical cannabis prescriptions in SA

You need a prescription to legally access and use medicinal cannabis in SA. The prescription must come from a registered medical practitioner who has obtained the correct approval from the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The exact steps involved in prescribing medical cannabis may vary in different parts of the country. Additionally, exceptions are sometimes made in cases when terminally ill or elderly patients require palliative care. Otherwise, possession or consumption of cannabis without a valid prescription, even for medical use, is illegal in the state of South Australia.

Medical cannabis supply in South Australia

Only government-approved manufacturers and importers can supply medicinal cannabis products in SA. To do so, they must obtain the relevant licenses and permits while following the appropriate guidelines. The products they supply can only be accessed by eligible individuals through licensed medical practitioners. With a valid prescription, you should be able to receive medical cannabis products from any pharmacy in the state. Unapproved medical cannabis products can be prescribed to patients through the Authorised Prescriber (AP) and Special Access Scheme (SAS) pathways.

Medical cannabis eligibility in South Australia

Eligibility and treatment options in SA are discussed between patients and their doctors. A registered medical practitioner will decide your eligibility through a comprehensive examination of your health conditions and medical history. If it’s determined that your condition warrants the use of medical cannabis, your medical practitioner can then apply to the TGA and seek approval for prescription.

Medical cannabis in workplaces SA

Medicinal cannabis products containing THC are listed as banned substances for many workplaces in SA. For this reason, you could potentially be fired for using medicinal cannabis. However, each company has their own drug testing policy, and certain medicinal cannabis products may be allowed by some workplaces. Before starting medical cannabis treatments, please discuss your company’s drug policy with your employer. If your workplace only prohibits the use of THC products, discuss CBD-only alternatives with your doctor to find a solution that meets your work policy requirements.

Travelling with medical cannabis in South Australia

Travelling with medical cannabis is generally acceptable as long as you carry your prescription and transport the product correctly. However, you’ll typically need documentation if you plan to take it to another state and should keep your prescription in its original bottle or container when you travel, no matter what product it is. All pharmacy labels should be intact and readable. As an extra measure, you could also have your doctor provide a letter detailing your medication, dosage, and how much you’re bringing on your travels. Certain clinics offer patient cards for this purpose. If you choose not to take your medicine interstate, be mindful that you might not be able to access your prescription from another pharmacy depending on that state’s legislation. For overseas travel, conduct thorough research about your destination’s drug policies. Carrying cannabis, even with a prescription, may be illegal in other countries.

Driving with medical cannabis in SA

It is illegal to drive with medicinal cannabis containing THC in your system in South Australia. THC can have prominent psychoactive effects, with the potential to intoxicate a user. This may cause cognitive impairment, which is dangerous for driving or operating heavy machinery. Currently, police roadside testing only checks for the presence of THC, not necessarily your level of impairment, and THC could take days or even weeks to fully leave your system. Legally, you should be able to drive while being treated with CBD-only products, however some of these products sometimes contain THC if they have been sourced illicitly online (even when they advise no THC is present). It’s important to consult with your doctor about treatment options if you need to drive regularly, and get your medicinal cannabis through legal pathways to ensure all labels and ingredients are accurate.

Medical cannabis cost in South Australia

The estimated cost of medicinal cannabis in South Australia is around $300 per month. Prices vary widely depending on patient needs, product type, and prescription so some patients may pay much less or more than the average. Some health insurance companies may cover the cost of medicinal cannabis as part of their extras cover. They don’t often advertise this kind of cover, so check with your health insurance provider directly to find out what rebates you may be eligible for. Unfortunately, cannabis products are not eligible under public health insurance like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) or Medicare.

Medical cannabis pharmacies in SA

Pharmacies in South Australia can order and dispense medicinal cannabis if they have applicable TGA and State Health approval. Authorised Prescribers don’t need to apply to the TGA for approval every time they issue a prescription, but they do need to supply their product or category approval letter with a prescription. Keep in mind you may not be able to have your prescription dispensed in another state, depending on that state’s specific laws.

Other Australian States

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

Medicinal cannabis is legal in New South Wales in medical and scientific situations. Doctors can prescribe it when necessary with TGA approval. The government has also established the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation to conduct community education and keep track of clinical trials.

Medical Cannabis in NSW

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

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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