Few Australians Have Accessed Legal Medicinal Cannabis

Legal medicinal cannabis access in Australia
Cannabis image: BigStock

With all the talk of medical cannabis in Australia, you’d be forgiven for thinking the number of people who have gained legal access to medicines so far is much higher than what it actually is.

According to an ABC report, just 130 people in Australia have ever been given approved access to medicinal cannabis products. As for authorised prescribers, there are just 25. That’s less than one authorised prescriber per million Australians.

This ridiculous situation is even though there are cannabidiol (CBD) based medicines sitting in warehouses in Australia; enough to treat “hundreds if not thousands” of patients says the Health Department’s deputy secretary in charge of drug regulation, adjunct Professor John Skerritt.

The revelations came at a Senate estimates committee hearing.

Just 89 patients have been given access through the special access scheme, and another 41 based on prescriptions by an authorised doctor – since 1992.

As we mentioned recently, part of the issue in terms of very recent times appears to lie in patients no longer being able to access medications under Category A of the Special Access Scheme and must instead use Category B – which is far slower.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale sought to rectify this issue early this month. While his amendment had Labor’s backing, it was defeated due to Nick Xenophon Team and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation joining the Coalition in voting against it. Medical cannabis crusader Lucy Haslam responded angrily to the amendment’s defeat, stating it was time Government and bureaucrats had a serious reality check.

Professor Skerritt disagrees that Category B presents too much of a hurdle to access medicines, saying there is a clear pathway and involves a “one-page form with some attachments “. On the Commonwealth’s side of things, approvals are taking just a couple days states the professor.

With so many Australians supporting medical cannabis and patients expressing a desire to try it; something is definitely wrong. Aside from any real or perceived convoluted process in acquiring medicines; cost may also be playing a role. In March, we mentioned some patients have been quoted a cost of up to $93 a day for medication. It’s little wonder then that illegal channels will continue to thrive.