Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Since Australia recently legalized growing and using medical marijuana, it can be tricky to figure out what’s legal and what isn’t. Since listing all their medical marijuana laws would be excessive, we can give you a general overview of them. Knowing your medical marijuana laws can give you easier access to the medicine you need.
You couldn’t legally use marijuana medicine in Australia until 2016, when the federal government set the framework. In February, the parliament passed the Narcotics Drugs Amendment Bill 2016, legalizing growing marijuana for medical purposes. Then, they legalized the use of medical marijuana on a federal level in November of that year.
Soon after the federal legalization of medical marijuana, Australia’s states sorted out their own medicinal cannabis laws. Starting with Victoria and ending with Tasmania, each state established regulations one by one. Some states developed liberal laws that provided access to many patients, while others only approved a few kinds of patients.
Australia does not have a unified medical marijuana program — instead, they leave qualifications up to each state. So, different states require patients to go through unique procedures in order to legally use medical marijuana. For example, Tasmania reviews patients on a case-by-case basis, while New South Wales patients must get a review from a panel.
In general, the states don’t even have their own medical marijuana programs. They mostly require approval from the government for a doctor to prescribe cannabis medicine to a patient. A prescription for medical marijuana in Australia functions like one for any other medication.
Like other regulations regarding cannabis, criminalization varies by state. However, no state allows recreational marijuana use or possession. Meanwhile, every state permits medical use when they comply with medical marijuana laws.
The Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and South Australia have decriminalized recreational marijuana in all aspects. People who live in these areas still can’t grow, use, sell or carry marijuana, but if they get caught doing so, they only face a minor offense.
Everywhere else in Australia considers marijuana-related activities a criminal offense. This means people who get caught could receive jail time or a large fine.
The legal limitations of Australian medical marijuana laws depend on a state’s laws. Since the federal government leaves regulations up to state governments, some citizens have plenty of access to medicine, while others don’t.
For instance, someone with a certain condition can get medical marijuana in one state, but not another. If they lived in Queensland, they could apply if they had one of the numerous approved conditions. However, the same person could only get medical marijuana for childhood epilepsy in Victoria.
These state differences can lead to confusion for many folks. Some patients could slip through the cracks if they don’t realize they can qualify.
The states determine what protections their patients and doctors can receive under medical marijuana laws. A fact sheet by the Australian Department of Health dictates that the states must determine decriminalization and protections themselves. However, the Department of Health plans to work together with the states to create complementary laws.
Overall, the federal government and states want to make sure people don’t improperly use or grow cannabis. They plan to ensure patient safety, road safety, child safety and the prevention of criminal use. Check your state’s cannabis regulations to see what you can do with your medication.
As you can see, Australian medical marijuana laws can be complicated. Plus, since Australia legalized medical cannabis recently, the regulations could easily change in the future.
To keep up with the latest changes in legislation in Australia, follow our blog. We provide news and updates on medical marijuana regulations worldwide.