SICK Australians with some of the worst ailments will no longer wait months for relief or be forced to turn to the black market to access medicinal cannabis with the government green-lighting the legal sale of marijuana products for medical use in Australia.
Australia has finally jumped a medical hurdle that will make it easier for people with chronic illnesses to obtain legal supplies of medicinal marijuana. Well, a little bit easier, every good thing comes with a caveat in this nation where the words ‘nanny state’ is a constant.
For years now people with debilitating and wasting diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, M.S, arthritic discomfort and nausea from chemotherapy have had to rely upon modern drugs and methods of pain treatment with the use of chemically produced pain killers or chemicals which by and large treat a symptom but not the associated problem and ongoing crisis.
Now the Australian government has decided that the time has come for doctors to be allowed to provide patients who meet strict criteria to have access to medicinal marijuana. But if you are thinking ‘wow what an amazing step’ think again. Like all things a government does things are not going to be that easy.
Doctors have already been importing the drug, but they’ve been doing it on a patient-by-patient basis.
This involves a long process of approvals through the states and a government department known as the Therapeutic Goods Association, who require ‘paperwork’ (there you go, paperwork – just what an overworked doctor needs) outlining the evidence and potential benefits and it’s also reliant on the availability of the drug overseas.
Because of the need to bring the marijuana in from overseas some people have had to wait months before they actually receive their treatments, and when you are dying or suffering a debilitating disease every day in that month counts.
As of now, though, it will be easier to import medicinal marijuana from approved international suppliers, which means the product will be able to be imported in bulk and warehoused in Australia until it’s needed. And some places in Australia will be given approval (with the necessary paperwork) to grow the product under very strict conditions.
So does that mean it’ll now be easier to get?
Yes and no. A patient who already has approval to use medicinal marijuana will no longer have to wait for the product to be imported, assuming that product is one that has met all of the import regulations.
But for those who don’t already have a prescription, it won’t be any easier to get one as a result of this change.
And it will be quite hard to access the product because medicinal marijuana isn’t approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) as a registered good. Only a government Minister could approve a product without giving the appropriate government department permission to use it.
Patients will need special approval to take it, and the TGA will provide two ways to go about getting this:
- Firstly, doctors can apply to become “authorised prescribers” of specific non-listed drugs to patients with particular medical conditions
- Secondly, doctors can apply for medicinal marijuana on behalf of their patients through the “Special Access Scheme”
In both cases, doctors need to be able to show that the drug would be of benefit for a particular patient with a particular disease, and the application processes are stringent.
One never ceases to be amazed at how a government bureaucrat can make a decision about a person they have never met and their health and pain whereas a doctor with years and years of firsthand experience cannot!
As well, the use of marijuana for medical purposes still needs to be legal in the state or territory in which a patient lives.
And naturally all the various states and territories have different rules and regulations, another hurdle through which a patient will have to jump.
One medico hedged her bets this way: “Doctors here don’t want pressure to provide scripts yet because we want to make sure it’s actually safe and effective first.”
And for those who may have thought that Australia was about to become the Holland of the South Seas, think again. You won’t be able to role a joint and harmonise with the world because your doctor has cracked the government code of bureaucracy. The medicinal marijuana they prescribe is most likely to be in the form of a liquid tincture, a dermal patch or synthetic spray.
At least for some there is relief on the horizon.