Can You Get Medical Cannabis From Your GP?

Medical cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that doctors do not formally prescribe it, but rather recommend its use. To purchase the substance at a medical marijuana dispensary, a doctor's recommendation is needed. A general practitioner cannot order cannabis-based medicines; they can only be prescribed by a specialized doctor at the hospital. Depending on what they say, you may be able to compare cannabis to opioids or other prescription drugs. Specialized doctors at hospitals can prescribe or recommend cannabis-based products for treatment when the specialist identifies a person's clinical need and other treatments are not appropriate or haven't helped.

Medical cannabis can only be legally accessed through your doctor. Growing your own cannabis or smoking illicit cannabis for medicinal purposes is still illegal in Victoria. Cannabis that is not prescribed by a doctor is less reliable than a drug, since it has not been tested for safety and quality and the active ingredients it contains (cannabinoids such as THC) are inconsistent. The use of cannabis that has not been prescribed by a doctor, in any form, is still illegal in Victoria. Medical professionals do not need to obtain accreditation or be specialists in a particular field. While the evidence base for the medicinal use of cannabis is developing rapidly, scientific knowledge about how it affects the body is still limited.

Medical cannabis is a relatively new treatment, and some health professionals may not yet feel knowledgeable enough to prescribe it. Asking another health professional for a second opinion to make important health care decisions can reassure you about a decision or give you the opportunity to choose a different option regarding diagnosis or treatment. Medical cannabis products are not currently subsidized by the Commonwealth Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefit Plan (PBS), meaning that the patient must pay the full cost. Products sold on websites that claim to be “medical cannabis” products cannot guarantee their safety and consistency and may contain illegal or toxic substances. However, your doctor may prescribe a medical cannabis product that is not yet in Australia, but the appropriate import permits from the Office of Drug Control (ODC) will also be required. There are several medical cannabis products available that contain different combinations of active ingredients, suitable for different conditions.

Many contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) of the Delta 9 type, which is the cannabinoid known for its psychoactive properties. Since there is little evidence or guidance available on the recommended period of time between THC consumption and driving, it is recommended that patients do not drive or perform hazardous tasks, such as operating heavy machinery when taking medical cannabis products containing THC. Any patient with any condition may be prescribed medical cannabis if their treating doctor considers it clinically appropriate and has the necessary approvals. A Victorian treatment permit is required if a doctor or nurse practitioner intends to prescribe a Schedule 8 medical cannabis product (those products containing THC) to a patient with a history of drug addiction. This is a requirement that applies to treatment with any Schedule 8 drug, such as opioids; it is not specific to medical cannabis. In addition to the two medical cannabis products currently approved for use (Sativex and Epidyolex), health professionals can also prescribe a variety of unapproved medical cannabis products.

These products have not undergone the same safety and efficacy evaluations as approved products, but they can still be prescribed with approval from the Commonwealth Therapeutic Products Administration (TGA). Although not specified in the regulations, it is strongly recommended that the name of the patented product be included to minimize uncertainty and the likelihood that the pharmacist will have to contact the prescriber for clarification before being able to provide it to the patient. Once you have a basic understanding of medical cannabis and the access landscape, you're ready to talk to your doctor. For any patient, with any medical condition, your doctor may prescribe medical cannabis if he deems it clinically appropriate. Getting a new medication to ease your medical condition and overall quality of life doesn't have to be a stressful process.

So, be sure to take notes on how your current cannabis use is helping, unlike other medications. In Australia, medical cannabis refers to a range of quality-assured pharmaceutical cannabis preparations intended for therapeutic use. To be truly prepared for the conversation with your doctor and for the journey ahead with medical cannabis, you must have a basic and fundamental knowledge of cannabis and of the access roads to Australian medicine. Medical cannabis would only be prescribed when it was believed to be in your best interest and when other treatments hadn't worked or weren't adequate. While not ideal, preparing for the conversation with your doctor about medical cannabis will make it much easier. There is some evidence that medical cannabis can relieve certain types of pain, although these tests are not yet strong enough to recommend it for pain relief. While medical cannabis is proving to be a lifesaver for some, many doctors are undecided (or on the wrong side) when it comes to prescribing.

People often get nervous when they decide to talk to their doctor or a clinic about medical cannabis. .

Emma Matthews
Emma Matthews

Meet Emma, a travel enthusiast from Aukland, now living in Great Britain, on a mission to share the world's wonders. Her blog is your passport to adventure, from London's charming cafes to the Scottish Highlands' rugged trails. Follow her for travel tips, cultural insights, and a dose of wanderlust. Join Emma on her quest to make every journey unforgettable!