The status of medical cannabis in Australia is such that many are still sourcing medicines illegally – and perhaps not getting what they paid for.
According to Professor Iain McGregor, the most recent figures indicate just 153 patients across Australia have been authorised to acquire medicinal cannabis products under the nation’s Special Access Scheme. Approximately 30 Australian doctors have been granted Authorised Prescriber status, prescribing products to a further 101 patients.
As to when those figures were current isn’t clear, but in May, we reported just 130 people in Australia at that point in time had ever been given approved access to medicinal cannabis products and there were just 25 authorised prescribers across the nation.
Professor MacGregor, who is academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, says a number of steps could be taken to improve and accelerate access. These include an amnesty for current users of illegal products, allowing appropriately trained GPs to prescribe without specialist involvement, and rescheduling of low-THC cannabis products as over-the-counter medicines.
Some desperate patients are choosing to circumvent laws in order to acquire medical cannabis products, but this isn’t without its risks – legal and otherwise.
According to New Daily, some patients are being sold fake and “toxic” cannabis oil manufactured by unscrupulous or inexperienced individuals in backyard laboratories across Australia.
14 different samples of cannabis extract sent to New Daily from customers of three different illegal suppliers were tested by an unnamed research facility and the results analysed by Safe Work Australia. According to SWA, 13 products were found to have no medicinal value, contained hazardous solvents or were “heavily intoxicating.” With regard to the latter, this means the products had high levels of THC.
Among the contaminants were naphthuric acid (naphthalene), a potential carcinogen, and Phenol, a household disinfectant.
This report doesn’t mean all those making extracts in Australia are creating poor quality medicines, nor is the contamination issue confined to Australia. Contamination has also been cause for concern in the USA, even among legitimate commercial products.
However, the issue does highlight the fact that sourcing products such as cannabidiol (CBD) through illegal sources can be risky, and patients/carers need to carry out appropriate due diligence if they intend pursuing this course of action. If a patient’s body is already compromised by a condition, then adding further stress to the body by ingesting toxins could have serious consequences.