As the founder of a Cannabis-Based Business and a cancer survivor, one would assume that I have some type of streamlined access to an abundance of medical cannabis treatments. If I am being completely honest this is in some parts true, as I would allegedly have access to some top shelf products to test, as well as a bustling black market of products that can be illegally imported. Besides that fact, if I were to engage with these products, I would risk massive fines or worse if caught. So for the sake of testing out the growing legal avenues we now have in Australia, for my piece of mind and curiosity, I wanted to try the legal system and see how the process works, how easy (or hard) it may be, and try some good quality pharmaceutical grade Medical Cannabis.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “My mate's uncle Jim makes medical cannabis in his shed, and it cured his dog's cancer” I would be a rich man, and no uncle Jim I don't want your oil! The issue with black market and unregulated products is the safety, purity, and efficacy of the products and whether or not they carry all of the available compounds to make it an effective therapy. Being a cancer patient and survivor I would worry what unregulated products had in them and how that might affect my already fragile health situation. Some questions you might like to ask uncle Jim would be, what nutrients are you feeding the plants? Are you using pesticides? Are you using herbicides? Is the soil you're using pure and free of toxins? Are your plants free of any toxic moulds?
All these things by nature can be absorbed by the plants and transferred into the molecules we ingest. So, although it may be cheap and easy to access, we need to ask how these unregulated products are affecting my health?
What is the process for applying for medical Cannabis in Australia?
Find a cannabis clinic or Authorised prescriber.
As Medical Cannabis is an unapproved controlled substance, prescriptions are needed to obtain it. Yes, that also currently includes CBD oil despite what you may hear on media outlets. For most of us approaching a regular GP even your long standing family GP might seem like the first appropriate point of contact. Unfortunately in most cases regular doctors do not know how to prescribe cannabis, who to access it from, or they even may not be willing to try. I knew that this would be the case with my family doctor so I looked for a clinic first to figure out the process.
Getting in touch with the closest or most suitable clinic was the first step, for me this was CDA Clinics AKA Cannabis Doctors Australia. For those that are unaware, medical cannabis in Australia has been legal since 2016, but most of these clinics have only been operating in more recent times.
In my case CDA Clinics were very helpful and they have a great way of dealing with the grey areas of cannabis referrals. They sent me a consent form that both myself and my GP completed, it explains that the GP needs to fill it out, why I am applying, and attach my clinical notes that I can send back to the clinic. That simple!
The First Consultation.
My first clinic consultation with CDA was fast and easy, and from the outset it is very clear that the clinic nurses are there to assist you accessing cannabis and really want the best outcome for the patient. So don’t be afraid to really confide in them and be open and honest about what products you would like to try. The Nurses are well educated on the topic and will also suggest what they feel would work for you.
I was asked questions like;
What is your main complaint and reason for wanting to access medical cannabis?
What other medications have you tried?
Have those medications given you any relief?
How much does it cost?
The fees associated with clinics vary. The fees are broken down into initial consultation ($75 - $250). TGA applications fees (This is payable for each product applied for) e.g $35 for CBD oil, then if I wanted a flower to vape for example that would also draw the application fee of $35 and so on. Then there will be follow up consultation fees($40-$95) after you have received the product. These fees are all separate from the cost of the cannabis products themselves which widely vary. I will add a link to the bottom of this blog for other platforms that have a price matrix for each clinic, and product cost if you are serious about accessing it yourself I highly recommend investing in the small fee it costs to gain this information.
Special Access Scheme Class - B.
The special access scheme (SAS-B) is the avenue that allows GP’s and Cannabis Clinics to apply for approval for each patient and the product they are seeking through the TGA (therapeutic Goods Administration). The approval process can happen within a matter of 48 hours. The entire process for me took about 10 days from GP referral to being able to collect my Cannabis prescription.
An authorised prescriber (AP) is a practitioner or specialist that has already gained pre-approval from the TGA to prescribe products directly to a patient and this process can often be a little faster. Examples of an AP could be a GP, Pain Specialist, or Neurologist that has patients with certain conditions they see eleigle to try cannabis as a treatment.
Clinical Trials are another avenue to access Medical Cannabis and CBD Oil, and are available across Australia for various illnesses and case studies, please see the links at the bottom of this page to find out more about these trials.
Word of Advice!
Ignore the push back.
I remember the first GP that I asked about accessing medical cannabis in 2016 replied by saying. “It's not proven to be effective and there isn’t enough studies to show that it will help with your pain, and I am not willing to go down the path of prescribing it”. This is the response from an uneducated practitioner that maybe does not want to take the time to add Medical Cannabis to their arsenal of prescription drugs.
The reason I say that CDA Clinics (in my case) made the process easy, is because the form has clear guidelines of the legality and I am well within my rights as a patient to request the referral form to be completed. This is a major hurdle that cannot be underestimated, as it is taking away your basic rights as a patient to request it. Sadly due to the stigma Cannabis carries as a dangerous drug or something that only low-life stoners consume, it can make us as patients reluctant to request it.
Even in my situation working in the industry, knowing the laws, and being a cancer survivor I knew that it would surely give me an all access pass by design, I found that I still felt and was made to feel awkward at my request to complete the form by my doctor. When and if this occurs you stand firm and make them read the form and adhere to your entitled and legal request.
This is where a major problem lies in the education still to be conducted to GP’s and the referral system, as I would bet my bottom dollar that many who have asked, have been rejected, continued to consume the mainstream medications, or have turned to the black market to access medical cannabis. If your GP pushes back, denies you the opportunity, or won’t assist you find another doctor a.s.a.p!
I have the forms, what's the next step?
Once I had the completed forms I got my phone, opened the camera and sent a picture of my cannabis referral form to my best mate Remus from high school. He and I have always dreamed the day would come where our use of cannabis became legal and not so frowned upon. On a more serious note, I called CDA clinics and advised them I now have the completed forms, they instructed me to scan and email them across so they could start my application process.
If there is one thing to take away from this blog and why I decided to access medical cannabis, it is this. Knowing where your product is coming from and the quality of it is important for more reasons than one. Unregulated products may have harmful effects that might worsen your condition or even create a new problem, and if your cannabis products aren't Lab tested for purity, you may just be putting useless or artificial compounds in your body that don't have a therapeutic benefit or potentially be harmful.
Please subscribe and keep up to date with our latest articles and product reviews. My next blog will explain the process of approval and collection of the products I applied for and a comprehensive review of the products and overall process.
Price Matrix for Clinics and products - https://www.buymeacoffee.com/cbdreviews?fbclid=IwAR147BEbkJqBSkZMEYc57ZXlK5bMt3RQkxBoYATEACUG_fCVqLAFNV_5U8M
Product reviews and prices - https://cannareviewsau.co/
Find Authorised Prescribers and Clinics - https://budherd.com.au/nearme/doctors/qld
Find a Clinical Trial - https://appliedcannabisresearch.com.au/medical-cannabis-studies/