How Australians Are Accessing Medical Cannabis

Australian drug survey - medical cannabis

A recently released survey report states just 3.9% of Australians who used cannabis for medical purposes obtained it by prescription.

The Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey has been conducted every 2 to 3 years since the first survey in 1985. In the 2019 survey, 2 new questions were included relating to the medical use of cannabis, which were:

  • Have you used Marijuana/Cannabis for medical purposes in the last 12 months?
  • Was the medical Marijuana/Cannabis prescribed by a doctor?

The report states 6.8% of those surveyed who used cannabis only used it for medical purposes. Just 1.8% always had it prescribed and 2.1% sometimes had it prescribed.

Of those using cannabis medicinally, around half of this group had chronic pain. Older people were more likely than younger Australians to use cannabis only for medical purposes, with those aged 60 and over most likely to use cannabis for medical reasons only, while those in their 20s were least likely to.

People who used cannabis only for medical purposes were more likely to use oil (23% compared with 4.5% of those using it for non‑medical purposes) and much less likely to use leaf/flower (27% compared with 51%).

In terms of sourcing for medicinal use, 51% usually obtained it from a friend, 22% from a dealer and 7.3% grew it themselves.

A related fact sheet from the survey can be found here.

Last month we mentioned another study – Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS:18), which was conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney between September 2018 and March last year. It found just 2.7 per cent were accessing legal products.

Commenting on the findings, report co-author and academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics Professor Iain McGregor said Australia needs to accelerate change in its approach to medical cannabis, including allowing for over-the-counter access to CBD (cannabidiol – a non-intoxicating cannabinoid).

That is a real possibility with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently considering proposed amendments to the Poisons Standard that would result in cannabidiol available as a pharmacy-only medication without a prescription. The decision was made in June, but won’t be made public until September.