Over-the-counter cannabis could be available in Australia by next year

Sep 11, 2020
While CBD comes from the marijuana plant itself, it can't actually get you 'high'. Source: Getty.

Medicinal cannabis could become available over the counter in Australian pharmacies as early as next year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) says.

The TGA has announced it intends to make low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) products available without a prescription. That’s right, patients would only need to speak with a pharmacist before purchasing the products. However, there’s a small catch, patients will only be able to pick up a maximum daily dose of 60mg and a 30-day supply at one time.

CBD has been touted for its wide-ranging benefits, such as anxiety and pain relief, as a possible treatment for epilepsy and some studies have suggested CBD may help alleviate cancer symptoms and cancer treatment side effects. And while CBD comes from the marijuana plant itself, it can’t actually get you ‘high’ — that’s caused by another cannabinoid (chemicals found in cannabis), known as THC.

Josh Fegan, CEO at provider Althea, said the TGA’s decision was one of the “biggest developments in our industry to date”.

“The interim decision reflects the significant shift in community and government attitudes towards medicinal cannabis since it was legalised in Australia in late 2016, which has seen it move from a fringe alternative towards an accepted mainstream option,” Fegan said.

“As a strong advocate for patient access, Althea has closely monitored the proposed amendment since it began and has participated in the consultation process. We are excited by the TGA’s interim decision to down schedule CBD products and see this development as a big step forward for prescription cannabis products already available in Australia.”

Meanwhile, Dr Melissa Benson from Applied Cannabis Research said the move is great news, adding: “This is a win for supporting further clinical research in the area of low dose CBD medicines. It could also promote greater safety for patients if it leads to less use of illicit CBD products, which can expose patients to potential harms associated with unregulated products including contamination with heavy metals, pesticides and the like.”

The news comes after a study found cannabis oil may help with sleep. The Centre for Sleep Science at the University of Western Australia (UWA) conducted a trial that involved 23 patients diagnosed with chronic insomnia. They were treated for 14 nights with cannabis oil and 14 nights with a placebo, with a week-long ‘washout’ period in between.

Participants reported improved sleep as well as better quality of life, meaning they felt rested after sleep, were less stressed, less fatigued and had improved overall functioning. The oil caused minor side effects, such as a dry mouth and headache, though these passed quickly for most patients.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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