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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Medicinal Cannabis (Qld)


Medicinal cannabis can be prescribed by any registered medical practitioner in Queensland who has the required Commonwealth approval. There is evidence medicinal cannabis may be useful to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic non-cancer pain, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

The Commonwealth Department of Health regulates medicinal cannabis through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Office of Drug Control (ODC). Most medicinal cannabis products are not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) and so doctors must seek TGA approval to prescribe them.

Products

Medical cannabis is made from the cannabis sativa plant, which is the same plant used to make the illegal drug marijuana. Medicinal cannabis comes in the form of:

  • tinctures: plant material infused in oil or alcohol;
  • vaporiser material: dried plant or concentrated extracts to be heated in a vaporiser;
  • capsules;
  • nasal spray.

As of April 2021, the oral spray Sativex is the only medicinal cannabis product registered with the ARTG and therefore able to be prescribed by all doctors in Queensland without an approval. It is registered for use in treating MS spasticity.

Legislation

On a Commonwealth level, the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016 enabled the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes, providing detailed regulations for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products. Under this Act, medicinal cannabis products are subject to stringent security and quality control.

On a Queensland level, the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 was revoked in 2019 and medicinal cannabis was placed in the same class as prescription drugs (Schedule 4) or drugs of addiction (Schedule 8) under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986.

A medical practitioner who prescribes medicinal cannabis to a person must:

  • comply with any TGA conditions, including gaining informed written consent from the patient;
  • comply with any Queensland Health conditions;
  • if requested, provide a written report to Queensland Health that may include patient response and frequency of use;
  • report any adverse or unexpected effects to the TGA.

Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996

These regulations govern who can deal with medicinal cannabis and other scheduled medicines in Queensland.

Regulation 78A states a person must not dispense, obtain, prescribe, sell or use a controlled drug that is medicinal cannabis unless the person is a doctor and they are dispensing, obtaining, prescribing or supplying the drug to medical treat someone. The maximum penalty is a fine of 80 penalty units ($10,676).

Regulation 131 states a person must not advertise, or cause someone else to advertise, a controlled drug, whether or not the drug is named in the advertisement. The maximum penalty is a fine of 80 penalty units ($10,676). However, the regulation does not apply to price lists, advertisements or promotional material supplied to the wholesale drug trade or to medical or pharmaceutical professionals, or to advertisements in professional or trade journals.

Inspectors

Under the Health Act 1937 (Qld) inspectors can enter premises such as pharmacies and medical clinics to check compliance with conditions attached to approvals to dispense medical cannabis. An inspector has the power to seize evidence of an offence. If an inspector (or police officer) finds a person in possession of a cannabis product, they can determine whether the product is an authorised medicinal cannabis product by checking the label to ensure the product was supplied by a pharmacy with a lawful prescription, or by contacting the prescriber and pharmacist.

Production in Queensland

Commonwealth and state laws strictly regulate the cultivation, manufacture and wholesaling of medicinal cannabis products in Queensland. The TGA mandates that products supplied in Australia meet Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and the Therapeutic Goods Order No. 93 (Standard for Medicinal Cannabis). GMP is a set of principles and procedures designed to ensure product quality at every stage of manufacturing, and the Order No. 93 specifies minimum quality requirements for medicinal cannabis products.

The Commonwealth Government is responsible for issuing all licences and permits, through the ODC. Cannabis production in Queensland is managed under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 and the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987, and wholesaling is governed by the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996.

Illegal use

Growing cannabis without a licence and recreational use of cannabis remains illegal under commonwealth and state legislation. Drug offences under the Drug Misuse Act 1986 include unlawful possession, supply production and trafficking of  a dangerous drug. Penalties for these offences range from 15 years to 25 years imprisonment, depending on the amount of the drug and the circumstances of the offending.

Homegrown cannabis products cannot be guaranteed for safety, and their effects may not be predictable or reliable.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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