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How do you get a Medical Cannabis Card in Australia?

How do you get a Medical Cannabis Card in Australia?
May 03, 2024
3 min read

In Australia, medical cannabis cards do not exist as they do in other countries, instead, a prescription is issued to suitable patients. Becoming a medical cannabis patient in Australia seems complicated, but can be a straightforward and easy process. In this guide I will explain all you need to know about medical cannabis prescriptions.

How do you get a Medical Cannabis Card in Australia?

Medical cannabis cards vs prescriptions

Countries around the world sometimes operate using a system of medical cannabis “cards”. These were first introduced in the US state of California with the legalisation of medical cannabis in 1996.

Australia uses a different model for medical cannabis access, wherein it is treated the same as any other Schedule 8 prescription medication. This means that instead of obtaining a card that allows for general access to cannabis products, patients in Australia are prescribed individual products of a specific weight and cannabinoid content by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

Who is eligible?

The first step to becoming a medical cannabis patient is determining your eligibility.

To be considered for a medical cannabis prescription, you must:

  1. Not be pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding
  2. No history of psychosis
  3. No history of unstable cardiovascular disease
  4. Have a chronic condition (lasting more than 3 months)
  5. Have tried conventional treatment options, and
  6. Those treatments must have been unsuccessful in treating your symptoms or caused side effects.

How does the process work?

Once a patient has met these criteria, a doctor can then consider medical cannabis as a treatment option. This does not mean that cannabis will be prescribed. It is recommended that patients are honest with their doctor, and be open about any prior experience with cannabis. This will help the doctor arrive at a suitable treatment plan.

Doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe medical cannabis to suitable patients via one of 2 access pathways.

  • The AP (Authorised Prescriber) pathway allows a doctor to apply to become an Authorised Prescriber. This allows them to prescribe medical cannabis to suitable patients.
  • The SAS-B (Special Access Scheme) pathway allows doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe cannabis medicine to patients on a case-by-case basis by submitting approvals to the TGA.

How do I prove I am a medical cannabis patient?

In order to prove you are a medical cannabis patient, you must keep your prescription in its original container, and the pharmacy label must be entirely legible.

Can I travel with medical cannabis?

You can travel anywhere within Australia with a valid medical cannabis prescription. However, patients travelling internationally will be subject to the laws of the countries they are travelling through. For this reason it is advised that patients do not travel with their medical cannabis, vaporisers, and other accessories.

Can I legally drive on medical cannabis?

It is illegal to drive with any THC in your system. Tasmania allows patients to present a medical defence, provided they are unimpaired. However, driving is not advised while taking medicinal cannabis due to the psychoactive effects of THC. Patients using medicinal cannabis products should seek their doctor’s advice before driving or operating machinery.

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Disclaimer

Please note that this blog was not written by a licensed medical practitioner and therefore is not providing medical advice. We do not endorse the use of cannabis or any other illicit drugs. Like any medication, cannabis has potential negative side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. For the latest information on cannabis prescription and use, please visit the TGA website. If you are considering cannabis as a treatment option, we encourage you to consult with a licensed healthcare professional.

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