" "

Medicinal Cannabis

What is medicinal cannabis?
Medicinal Cannabis refers to legal, high quality products made from raw cannabis plants, prepared under controlled conditions in a pharmaceutical lab. Crude or unprocessed cannabis are not prescribed by doctors because the dosage and potency of the drug is not consistent. Legal preparations of cannabis use modified active components of the plant, which maximise the therapeutic benefit and minimise side effects. Pharmaceutical products in tablet, capsule, spray or oil form mean the dose and strength of the product can be controlled and standardised.
What is the difference between medicinal and recreational cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is produced under strict pharmaceutical conditions. Doctors and pharmacists know exactly what the medicine contains. The ingredients, potency and quality of illicit recreational cannabis are not controlled. Contamination with microbes, pesticides, heavy metals and other illicit drugs can occur. Illicit recreational cannabis is usually smoked. Smoking is a harmful way of using cannabis. Individuals who smoke cannabis may experience the same breathing difficulties as those who smoke tobacco. This means recreational cannabis cannot be described as being ‘medicinal cannabis’.
How is medicinal cannabis taken?
In Australia, medicinal cannabis products are commonly available as oils, sprays and capsules. Doses are usually taken orally.
What are the benefits of medicinal cannabis?

More study and testing is needed to determine the full spectrum of health benefits medicinal cannabis can have. However, there is evidence it may be useful in treating the following areas:
• Pain relief
• Relief from nausea
• Improve sleep
• Improve anxiety
• Increase appetite
• Reduce inflammation
• Reduce spasticity
• Reduce seizures

What are the side effects of medicinal cannabis?

All medications have the potential to cause unwanted side effects and medicinal cannabis is no exception. These side effects may include:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Changes in appetite
• Diarrhea
• Drowsiness
• Dizziness or loss of balance
• Difficulty with concentration
• Difficulty thinking and memory recall

If you have any side effects or concerns throughout the duration of your treatment course, please consult with your general practitioner and/or prescribing doctor to ensure appropriate measures are taken to monitor those side effects or concerns.

Can I grow my own medicinal cannabis legally?
No. Cultivating your own cannabis for medical use or recreational use is still illegal.
Can I legally smoke cannabis now?
No. It is still illegal to use recreational cannabis, you will not be able to claim that smoking cannabis is for ‘medicinal’ purposes.
How do I access medicinal cannabis?

The first step is to discuss medicinal cannabis with your general practitioner or specialist. If you are not an existing patient, you must have a referral and a Patient Health Summary from your regular GP, and bring these two items to your appointment at Health On 21. It is a requirement from Medicare that you provide these documents. Following your initial consultation regarding medicinal cannabis, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) must approve your case prior to doctors prescribing products. This means you will not receive a prescription from your prescribing GP in your initial consultation. You will have to return for a follow up appointment, in order to find out if the TGA has approved the medicine for your case or not.

Any medicinal cannabis product containing THC is classed as a Scheduled 8 medicine. When prescribing Schedule 8 medicines, there are rules doctors must follow when prescribing them, which is why the TGA approval is necessary.

To make a booking please call (07) 5613 1531, and let reception know that you would like to discuss medicinal cannabis at the time of booking your appointment. If you prefer to do this online, please select the Medicinal Cannabis Appointment option on HotDoc. This is important as the correct amount of time is allocated for your consultation, to ensure you can discuss all questions or concerns with your referring GP.

How much does medicinal cannabis cost?
Medicinal cannabis products are not funded under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and prices will vary from one product to another. Your prescribing doctor or pharmacist can advise you of current pricing.
Is there anything I should tell my prescribing GP before I start taking medicinal cannabis?
As well as bringing your Patient Health Summary with you to your consult, you should let your prescribing GP know if you:
• Have or have had medical conditions in the past (incl. Any lung, liver, or kidney problems and drug or alcohol dependencies)
• Are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant
• If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed
Can I drive if I am using cannabis?
Any medication that contains cannabis can hinder your attention and concentration, which affects a person’s ability to drive and operate machinery.

In most states in Australia it is an offence to drive with THC present in your system, regardless of whether the THC comes from prescribed legal medicinal cannabis or illicit recreational cannabis.

It is recommended that people using medicinal cannabis do not drive.

What should I do if I have taken too much medicinal cannabis?
If you experience anxiety, nausea, dizziness, vomiting or fainting it is important that you don’t panic. Try to focus on your breathing, stay hydrated and find a safe place to relax.

The effects should wear off in 2-6 hours, depending on your method of consumption. If health and safety become a concern, contact your prescribing doctor immediately.

If you are experiencing chest pain, persistent vomiting, or dizziness causing falls you should go to the Emergency Department at the nearest hospital or call 000 immediately.

I am planning an overseas trip, is there anything I should do?
Always check local regulations before taking medicinal cannabis abroad as foreign countries may have different restrictions and regulations regardless of whether you are taking it for medicinal purposes.
I would like to stop taking medicinal cannabis, what do I need to do?

Please speak with your regular and prescribing GP before stopping medicinal cannabis, and be aware that upon stopping you may experience:
• Increased dreaming
• Sleep disturbances
• Appetite changes
• Mood changes
• Irritability
• Stomach upset
• Headache

The above symptoms generally do not last more than a few days.

You may also expect that the symptoms that were being managed by the medicinal cannabis will return when you stop taking the medication.

How do I dispose of medicinal cannabis?
If your prescribing GP advises you to stop taking medicinal cannabis or your product has passed it’s expiry date, you must return the unused product to the pharmacy that dispensed your medicinal cannabis.