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Medical Cannabis Sydney – Access, Eligibility & Regulations in NSW

Quick Summary

  • Legal medical cannabis in Sydney and NSW is only available with a doctor’s prescription.

  • Patients in NSW are using medical cannabis to help manage a wide range of conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and many other conditions.

  • Regulated, legal cannabis products are tested for quality, safety and consistency while “green” market products are often mislabeled and can contain harmful substances.

  • Due to increased competition, regulated, legal cannabis products are cheaper if not the same price as “green” market products.

  • If your regular doctor is unwilling to prescribe, you can do our quick eligibility test and book in directly with one of our medical cannabis Sydney doctors.

Is Medical Cannabis Legal in New South Wales?

Since 2016, the legalization of medical cannabis in Sydney and New South Wales (NSW) has allowed regulated access to these products. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and NSW State Health oversee the regulations. Similarly, to Victoria (VIC) and Queensland (QLD), any doctor in NSW can prescribe medical cannabis to any patient with any condition if they believe it is clinically appropriate and have obtained the necessary approvals.

In NSW, obtaining medical cannabis, including CBD oil, requires a prescription from a doctor. If your local doctor is unwilling to provide a prescription, you have the option to schedule an appointment with one of our medical cannabis doctors. To enhance accessibility, we offer telehealth consultations (via phone or video) to patients located in Sydney and throughout NSW.

Are There Differences Between Legal Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana

There are significant differences between legal medical marijuana and recreational black-market marijuana. Legal medical cannabis undergoes testing by regulatory authorities to ensure strict quality control. These products are held to high standards and undergo assessments for aflatoxins, foreign matter, heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury), ash, bacteria, fungus and pesticides.

In contrast, black market marijuana lacks any regulatory oversight. Recent testing has shown alarming results from “green market” medical cannabis sourced online from illicit suppliers. One study in New Zealand concluded that “The results show that these green fairy products contain a wide range of cannabinoid concentrations, and the claim that a product was high in CBD was often not correct.” Furthermore “The proposed dose size was not specified for these products, but few would provide what is considered an effective dose when compared with the administration of commercially purified cannabinoid product available by prescription.”

The study referenced a concerned grandfather who had a bottle of CBD oil his daughter purchased for her 4-year-old son from an unregulated black-market supplier tested to find out it contained more THC than CBD.

Studies continually show that unregulated black market cannabis oil varies in potency from batch to batch, making it impossible to find the optimal dosage.

Moreover, with many legal medical cannabis products now being more affordable than those on the black market, it is illogical to pursue illegal avenues. Patients can easily determine eligibility by completing our free medical cannabis eligibility form.

Medical Cannabis New South Wales (NSW) Special Access Scheme

Medical cannabis products in New South Wales are generally not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. This means you simply can’t go to the doctor and get a regular prescription to then fill at your local pharmacy as you usually do with conventional medication.

Instead, the TGA has created special pathways for doctors to provide access to medical cannabis products if it is clinically appropriate to do so. One of the ways is through the Special Access Scheme where your doctor is required to submit a special permit application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) prior to prescribing medical cannabis.

It’s important to note that a separate permit is needed for each prescribed product category. There are 5 categories depending on the level of CBD and THC contained in the product. Consequently, the process may involve a substantial amount of paperwork, as many patients exploring medical cannabis often need to experiment with multiple products to identify the most suitable one for their needs.

Doctors who have many patients on medical cannabis products can apply to a Human Research Ethics Committee and the TGA to become Authorized Prescribers of medical cannabis where they are not required to apply for each prescription written.

Cannabis Authorized Prescribers in Sydney, New South Wales

Some medical cannabis doctors in Sydney have applied to be Authorized Prescribers for certain categories of medical cannabis products. As a result, they don’t need to seek TGA approval each time they write a medical cannabis prescription for a patient.

However, the authority is based on each product category so it may be the case that if you need a prescription for a medical cannabis product for which the doctor is not an Authorized Prescriber, they will still need to apply for a SAS B approval permit.

Doctors prescribing under the Authorized Prescriber scheme still have additional paperwork requirements to track prescriptions written and adverse events as well as monitor patient treatment closely given medical cannabis is not registered on the ARTG.

What Medical Cannabis Products Are Available to Prescribe in NSW?

Medical cannabis products in New South Wales fall under either Schedule 4 (CBD only) or Schedule 8 (CBD + THC). Similar to other Schedule 8 medications, medical cannabis S8 products require a separate NSW Schedule 8 treatment permit.

There are now over 250 different medical cannabis products available for prescription in NSW. The wide range includes oils, flower (for vaporization through a vaporizer), oral capsules and oral sprays. The products fall under 3 general categories:

  • CBD products (containing mostly CBD)

  • Balanced products (containing equal parts CBD and THC)

  • THC products (containing mostly THC)

During your consultation with the doctor, you will discuss which treatment protocol is best suited for your condition. Generally, patients may need to try more than one product and dosage to find their ideal therapeutic effect. Finding your ideal dose occurs through the process of titration with the common advice of ‘start low and go slow’ applying to medical cannabis products. Please speak directly with your doctor regarding any dosing advice.

What Medical Conditions Can Medical Cannabis Be Used for in NSW?

A common misconception is that medical cannabis is only available to NSW patients with specific conditions (i.e. Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy etc.) There is no predefined list of eligible conditions, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) considers any condition that has not responded to conventional treatment.

The only requirement is that medical cannabis is not the first line of treatment, and patients must have tried at least one prescription medication before becoming eligible.

The list of conditions that the TGA have approved for medical cannabis in the past is long and includes:

Epilepsy / Seizure management, ADHD symptoms, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, Glaucoma, Anorexia, Insomnia, Anxiety, Ischemia Arthritis, Migraines, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathic pain, Cancer Pain, Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), Parkinson’s Disease, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Chronic pain, Neuropathy, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, Dementia, PTSD, Depression, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sleep disorders, Endometriosis, Spasticity from neurological conditions, Epilepsy and Tremors.

This list is not exhaustive, and new conditions are continuously being approved. In clinical practice, the most common reasons for medical cannabis use are various forms of chronic pain, as well as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. For a comprehensive review of the current clinical evidence, a systematic review is available here.

Is It Legal to Drive While Taking Medical Cannabis in NSW?

Currently in NSW, it is illegal for patients to drive if they are taking cannabis medicine which contains THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). This is because THC can affect the cognitive and motor skills necessary for safe driving, such as attention, judgment, memory, vision and coordination.

However, many patients are prescribed medical cannabis CBD products that do not contain any THC. In this case, patients are allowed to drive, as long as they are not impaired. As CBD can cause drowsiness, fatigue, lowered blood pressure and can also interact with other medications, patients should discuss usage and risk of impairment with their treating doctor.

Note that even if you are not impaired by THC, you could still have THC in your system long after you have last medicated. These trace amount could appear on saliva, urine and blood tests. In NSW it is illegal to drive with any THC in your system and a medical cannabis prescription cannot act as a defense for doing so.

Where Do I Get My Medical Cannabis Prescription Filled in NSW?

Any pharmacy is allowed to dispense medical cannabis in NSW. However most pharmacies are not familiar with the process or the medication. Some pharmacies may refuse to fill your cannabis prescription. Some may charge outrageous prices for the hassle.

We advise patients at our clinic to use our preferred pharmacy who mails the medication to your door at no extra charge.

This also ensure patients will have access to a knowledgeable pharmacist trained and experienced in cannabis medicine who can provide appropriate counseling. Scripts will also be filled much faster, without confusion and no chance of getting ripped off with outrageous markups.

How Much Does Medicinal Cannabis Cost in NSW?

The amount patients spend on medical cannabis in NSW is highly variable. The cost depends on their condition and the product/formulation they are prescribed.

With certain types of pain for example, balanced products containing both CBD and THC are ‘stronger’ than CBD only products. Patients using balanced products in this case will typically spend less than patients trying to achieve the same results with CBD only.

Medical cannabis products are not listed on the PBS, so patients have to pay out of pocket. However more and more health insurance plans are starting to include coverage so check with your plan if you have one.

Medical cannabis is a very personalized medication and patients will need to work with the doctor to find their ideal formulation and dose. When looking at averages, most patients in NSW pay between $4 – $8 per day for their medication – roughly the same as two cups of coffee.

Many Australians are still sourcing their medical cannabis from the “green” market as medical cannabis is perceived to be expensive. Although these days the price of legal, regulated cannabis is on par or cheaper than illegal, unregulated “green” market products.

The recent CAMS-18 survey reports that patients sourcing from the “green” market spend about the same as legal medical cannabis patients using the legal route.

Can I Bring Medicinal Cannabis Into NSW From Overseas?

If you are travelling to Australia, you are able to carry up to a 3 months’ supply of medicinal cannabis for yourself or a passenger in your care, provided you have the relevant prescription from a medical practitioner. Patients are advised to confirm this with the Office of Drug Control before travelling.

How Can I Access Medical Cannabis in Sydney or Regional NSW?

The best place to start is to speak to your regular doctor. If they feel uncomfortable prescribing, they can refer you to our clinic by filling out and sending back our referral form.

If your regular doctor won’t refer you, you can take our quick eligibility test and book in directly with one of our medical cannabis doctors who can help you get started.

Australian Access Clinics has been helping NSW patients access medical cannabis treatment since 2019.

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