Australia’s Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) has warned of the risks of sourcing cannabis products for medicinal purposes via illicit channels.
Interest in medical cannabis in Australia is building, particularly after the TGA’s decision to down-schedule certain CBD (cannabidiol) preparations to Pharmacist Only Medicines (Schedule 3), meaning a prescription isn’t required for qualifying products. While such products have been legally accessible since February 1 this year, there are none yet available.
For a CBD medicine to be supplied without a prescription it must meet Schedule 3 criteria and be listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). None have been, nor are expected to until late this year at the earliest.
“Unless entered in the ARTG, a medicinal cannabis product has not been assessed by the TGA for safety, quality or effectiveness and therefore advertising it to consumers is inappropriate,” says the TGA.
As the situation stands right at this moment, patients must still obtain a prescription to access any medicinal cannabis product in Australia. The TGA is particularly concerned about products from online sellers that do not request a doctor’s prescription.
“It may seem like a simple, affordable option, but products bought over the internet may be a serious risk to your health and a waste of money,” it says.
Aside from counterfeit products that may contain undeclared hazardous ingredients, the lack of manufacturing and testing standards being applied to illegal medical cannabis may also result in contamination – and if a patient’s health is already compromised, this can have particularly nasty results.
As we’ve reported previously here on HempGazette, the lack of quality control and testing can also mean buyers aren’t getting what they paid for in terms of active ingredients such as cannabidiol – or too much; with both scenarios being problematic. As for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in products claiming to be THC- free, or where the cannabinoid is not noted as being present, this can also have legal impacts other than those related to unauthorised possession.
“Medicinal cannabis bought online may not be accurately labelled, including the actual amount of THC,” says the TGA. “You could lose your driver’s license and be fined if found to be driving under the influence of THC.”
And in some jurisdictions, “under the influence” can basically mean any detectable level of THC.