Medicinal cannabis is an emerging field of complementary medicine in Australia and with it comes a variety of medicolegal challenges. Legalwise News Editor Caroline Tang asked Adam Miller, Managing Director of cannabis industry consultancy BuddingTech, about medicinal cannabis and its popularity as an alternative drug. To hear more about the legalities of this area, Legalwise Seminars will host the Medicinal Cannabis Legal Symposium on Tuesday, 28 May.
What is Medicinal Cannabis?
The Sativa plant (Cannabis Sativa) has a long history as a medicinal plant and was key to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid system in the human body. The combination of Cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids comprise the Endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for neuroprotection and micro-manages the immune system.
Medicinal Cannabis contains a number of Cannabinoids, which are chemicals unique to the plant. One of the biggest opportunities in the cannabis industry is a molecule called Cannabidiol (CBD), the cannabinoid compound known for its medicinal benefits. CBD has a wide scope of medical applications for patients seeking anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and/or anti-spasm effects without any psychoactive effects. So, CBD does not have the psycho-activity of THC (another type of cannabinoid).
Why do people use Medicinal Cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is a natural medicine which people around the globe have used for millennia. But it has only been in the past 10 years or so, that medicinal cannabis has become more broadly accepted as a natural alternative medicine for people who find current pharmaceutical drugs are unable to sufficiently aid their conditions. Evidence from many studies and more recently, clinical trials is demonstrating that medicinal cannabis provides major health benefits for people with a variety of conditions.
How popular is Medicinal Cannabis in Australia?
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) approved 1110 Special Access Scheme-B (SAS-B) applications for patients to access medicinal cannabis products during April. There have now been a total of 6388 SAS-B applications approved for medicinal cannabis, of which 5880 (92%) were approved in the last 12 months.
Currently, the SAS-B route accounts for the majority of approvals granted in Australia. However, in Germany, more than 95,000 cannabis prescriptions were filled in 2018. It’s important to note that Germany allowed for the medicinal use of cannabis in 2017.
Unfortunately, although Australia’s patient population is growing, harsh regulations make it very difficult for patients. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Australians are using cannabis illegally as a treatment for indications such as chronic pain and epilepsy.
What’s happening with Cannabis across the ditch?
The New Zealand Government is planning to hold a referendum next year that could result in non-medical use of cannabis becoming legal. Details of the proposal are still being developed, but it is believed that non-medical cannabis use would be limited to people over 20 years of age, advertising would not be allowed, and cannabis products would carry an additional tax. If the New Zealand Government allows for the non-medical use of cannabis to be legalised, this will put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Australian Government to follow. This is definitely a development worth watching.
Adam Miller is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of BuddingTech and Founder of the Medical Cannabis Council. Adam completed his Bachelor of Business Entrepreneurship at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Sweden’s Jönköping University for international business in 2009. Over the past seven years, Adam has worked in the field of disruptive innovation, with a specific focus on education and community building technology. In 2016 Adam published two Australian industry White Papers with The University of Sydney on medical cannabis. Contact Adam at email@example.com or connect via LinkedIn .
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