Medical marijuana was legalised in Australia on the 30th October 2016 and will be available for some conditions early 2017. It’s been a long time coming and while those suffering desperately wait to see the benefits, others are struggling to move past the “dorm room, bong smoking, gateway drug” myths long associated with marijuana. So, to help paint a more accurate picture, we’ve compiled the top 10 myths about medical marijuana and some myth busting information to help you navigate this brave new world…
Myth 1: I can smoke marijuana if I get a note from my doctor
Untrue. To obtain medical marijuana, you must first identify with one of the approved uses (conditions) in your state or territory, which can be obtained under the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme. You then can only obtain a prescription from a specialist doctor and use approved products under the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA) relevant to your region’s legislation. Personal crop, purchase from non-sanctioned suppliers or any involvement in marijuana use even for medical use outside of these regulations are all still illegal.
Myth 2: Legalisation of medical marijuana increases crime
The Narcotic Drugs Amendment provides federal parliament support, allowing cannabis to be legally grown in Australia for medicinal purposes. Each state and territory has their own legislation and while growing has commenced in some states, there are strict regulations around licensing, availability and distribution. Here are some key outcomes in each state and territory.
The intention of legalisation allows the controlled cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of medical products to help those suffering from a “serious illness.” It is a legal, regulated and necessary avenue for so many desperate people who have relied on black market supply for treatment. No empirical evidence in Australia exists between legalisation of medical marijuana and the increase of crime.
Myth 3: If I have a “serious” illness I can grow my own marijuana
False. The Narcotic Drugs Amendment supports the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes. Patients and their families will not be able to grow their own cannabis and recreational use is still strictly illegal. The legalisation of medical marijuana should not be confused with the deregulation or illegal recreational use of marijuana. To grow medical marijuana, you must have a cannabis license under one of these three categories:
- research license;
- a manufacturing license; and
- a medicinal cannabis license.
Myth 4: Medical cannabis is a gateway drug and leads to addiction
Medical cannabis is a medically modified strain of marijuana that is subject to pharmaceutical-grade testing, quality control and certification. Addiction is an associated risk with all medication and depends entirely on the individual and their susceptibility to substance dependence. Addiction studies attribute addiction to a combination of physical, mental, circumstantial and emotional factors.
Myth 5: There are no proven medical benefits
Extensive studies both domestically and internationally recognise the ability of medical cannabis to treat or manage severe conditions. Australian Drug Foundation’s National Policy Manager, Geoff Munro said, “we know through years of mounting evidence and research that medical cannabis can assist with everything from preventing or decreasing epileptic seizures, to effective pain relief for cancer patients.” For links and references to research, please click here.
Myth 6: Marijuana makes you psychotic and helps patients hallucinate to ‘think’ they’re getting better
Medical marijuana comes from the Cannabis Stavia plant which is made up of 60 compounds. Medicinal properties are harnessed from two properties; THC, which is a psychoactive compound responsible for the notorious “high” feeling and CBD which counteracts the high but still delivers the user relief. This select strain is grown, cultivated and processed under strict guidelines. The psychoactive compound is negated by CBD and helps users without “getting high”.
Myth 7: Medical cannabis cures cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and autism
Medical cannabis is not a cure for serious illnesses. However, evidence shows it helps manage symptoms and can be an effective pain relief for suffers. While it does not cure cancer, it has shown to help with nausea from chemotherapy radiation and increase appetite. Similarly, while it does not cure epilepsy it has been proven to reduce and sedate seizures for extended periods of time.
Myth 8: You’ll be able to buy medical marijuana at dispensaries for a variety of conditions
While studies have been conducted into medical marijuana’s ability to treat symptoms of various illnesses ranging from Alzheimer’s to autism, it is only legally available for the following illnesses:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cancer and HIV/AIDS patients experiencing severe pain, nausea and vomiting
- Epilepsy (severe seizures and not responding to conventional treatment)
- Severe chronic pain
Myth 9: Medical cannabis is only available for adults
Clinical trials were conducted in Australia as to the medical benefits of medicinal marijuana and children with epilepsy. As of early 2017, under the Access to Medical Cannabis Bill 2106, products will be available for Victorian children with epilepsy.
Myth 10: Medical marijuana is being pushed by large corporations as a money-making scheme and has no real benefit
It’s true that medical marijuana is potentially a billion dollar industry and it has already attracted huge investments from overseas companies such as Tilray, who have partnered with the NSW Government and the University of Sydney to commence the world’s biggest trial of marijuana’s impact on chemotherapy patients. The driving force in Australia however, credited as the perhaps biggest advocate and reason the change in Government and public perception, is Lucy Haslam and the Haslam family. After their son Daniel was diagnosed with bowel cancer and later died in 2015, the Haslam’s took the fight straight to the top. Lucy wanted to give those suffering, a legal, safe and regulated avenue to access medical marijuana.
How did you go?
Did this post help iron out any myths about medical marijuana for you?
If you’re still undecided on the topic, you might be interested in this 60 Minutes Australia video “Green Rush” from 2014 about medical cannabis saving lives…
USC Clinical Trial – Sunshine Coast
If you suffer from Epilepsy (partial onset seizures) or knee pain due to Osteoarthritis and you’re interested in being included in a medical cannabis clinical trial at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, click here for more information. The trial will consist of a using a gel treatment containing a synthetic cannabinoid which is applied to the skin.
Disclaimer: This post is intended to help as a guide only. It is not intended as advice. Please consult the relevant authorities and websites for full and up to date information.