Is Cannabis Legal in Australia?

In 2016, The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reclassified medicinal cannabis products containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from Schedule 9 (prohibited) to Schedule 8 (controlled) of the Poisons Standard, making the prescription of THC containing medicinal cannabis products legal in Australia.

Cannabidiol (CBD) medicines (which have less than 2% of any other active component) remain at Schedule 4, and have much less restriction than Schedule 8 products.

A patient’s physician must receive an approval from the TGA and/or State Health Authority, and can then write a prescription so the patient can legally possess and consume medical cannabis in Australia.

What indications can be prescribed for?

Currently, there are no limits to the symptoms and conditions for which a cannabis medicine may be prescribed. The body of clinical evidence continues to grow daily, meaning a variety of other conditions may be recognized to have positive associated outcomes with cannabinoid medications. Tetra Health has over 40 different conditions / symptoms that have been approved – check them out by clicking here.

How can a doctor apply?

As of 30 July 2018 an online system was introduced to enable the lodgement of Special Access Scheme (SAS) applications for medical cannabis. Prior to this, prescribers were required to complete and separately submit paper forms to the TGA and relevant State Health Department. Now, they can be submitted at the same time.

Physicians can also apply to become Authorised Prescribers, but the application / approval process can be arduous and needs to be approved by an HREC committee. If you are a physician looking for more information on becoming an Authorised Prescriber, get in touch with our medical team on physicians@tetrahealth.com.au.

Even with this new system, physicians are still reluctant to prescribe. Physicians still need to screen for contraindications, drug interactions, choose an appropriate medication (that is available in Australia), determine the clinical justification, dosing and titration schedules and monitoring for the patient. Tetra Health and our partners have successfully prescribed medical cannabis for over 30,000 patients across the world, and are a leader in Medical Cannabis Health Services in Australia.

Who can dispense medical cannabis products? 

Any Pharmacist can dispense the medication to the patient upon receiving the original copy of the prescription, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval and, where relevant, state-based approval documents. Please note, in some States, Pharmacies must first register with the Department of Health prior to dispensing cannabis.

Interested in Getting started? This is how the process works with Tetra!

Please read below for our State Guide!

It is important to note, the TGA is mandated to 48-hour approval times for applications. State processing, if required, is in addition to TGA approval times.

Western Australia – Medicinal Cannabis Access

As of November 2019 new legislative changes authorise General Practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis without specialist approval. However, doctors will still be required to seek specialist approval when prescribing for children under the age of 16 and for patients with drug dependencies or a history of drug use.

Who can prescribe: Specialist Medical Practitioners and General Practitioners can make an application for their patients under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

State Approval Process: No state-based approval required for Schedule 4 CBD products. 

THC Schedule 8 drugs still require a State Approval for WA Practitioners.

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in WA via our TeleHealth program, requiring only a TGA approval.

State Approval Times: Less than a week

Physician Information: Western Australia Department of Health

Patient information: Western Australia FAQ Sheet

Northern Territory – Medicinal Cannabis Access

Who can prescribe: Specialist Medical Practitioners and General Practitioners can make an application for their patients under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

State Approval Process: No state-based approval required for Schedule 4 CBD or Schedule 8 THC products. 

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in NT via our TeleHealth program, requiring only a TGA approval.

State Approval Times: Usually a few days unless more information is required

Physician Information: Northern Territory Department of Health

Patient Information: None Available

Queensland – Medicinal Cannabis Access

Queensland Health was the first State to relax is prescribing in July of 2019, with the State Health Department only requiring State Health Approvals for non-specialist General Practitioners, allowing access for patients in 24-48 hours through the TGA.

Who can prescribe: Australian Registered Specialist Medical Practitioners (including Specialist General Practitioners) can make an application for their patients under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

State Approval: No state-based approval required for Schedule 4 CBD products. 

Doctors who do not hold a specialist registration need approval from Queensland Health if prescribing a Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis product that is not registered on the ARTG. All Queensland doctors can prescribe Schedule 4 (CBD only) products without a State Approval.

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in QLD via our TeleHealth program, requiring only a TGA approval.

State Approval Times:  Two business days unless more information is required.

Physician Information: Queensland Department of Health

Patient Information: Queensland Patient Information

New South Wales – Medicinal Cannabis Access

Who can prescribe: Any Australian Registered doctor who is authorised under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme can make an application for their patient.

State Approval Process: No state-based approval required for Schedule 4 CBD products. 

Schedule 8 products require a State Approval for children under the age of 16 and for patients with drug dependencies or a history of drug use.

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in NSW via our TeleHealth program.

Process Approval Times: Up to one week unless more information is required

Physician Information: Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation

Patient Information: New South Wales Department of Health

Australian Capital Territory – Medicinal Cannabis Access

There is a bill in process right now to legalise cannabis for personal use in the ACT. However, due its territory status, commonwealth laws may override the rules they want to put into place. This may come into effect early next year.

Who can prescribe: Australian Registered Medical Practitioners must have approval from the ACT Chief Health Officer (CHO) to prescribe cannabis as a controlled substance as a single patient prescriber. 

A Category Approval states you may only apply to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients with the following conditions:

  • Spasticity in multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy
  • Pain and/or anxiety in patients with active malignancy of a life-limiting disease where (in either case) the prognosis might reasonably be expected to be 12 months or less
  • Refractory paediatric epilepsy

Prescribers may also apply for approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis for other indications.

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in the ACT via our TeleHealth program, requiring only a TGA approval.

Process Approval Times: Less than one week unless more information is required

More Information: ACT Health – Medicinal Cannabis

Victoria – Medicinal Cannabis Access

Who can prescribe: Australian Registered Specialist Medical Practitioners and General Practitioners can make an application for their patients under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

State Approval Process: No state-based approval required for Schedule 4 CBD products. 

Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis products require a Schedule 8 Treatment Permit under the Victorian Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act.

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in VIC via our TeleHealth program, requiring only a TGA approval.

Process Approval Times: Less than a week unless more information is required

Physician Information: Victorian Department of Health – Medicinal Cannabis

Patient Information: Victoria Patient Information

Tasmania – Medicinal Cannabis Access

Sadly, Tasmania is lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to legal access to medical cannabis. Since 2017, when the state approved medical access to patients, only seven patients have been prescribed medical cannabis products. Part of this is the fact that other states allow patients to process their applications online, while Tasmania does not.

Who can prescribe: General Practitioners (GPs) are unable to prescribe in Tasmania; referral to a relevant medical specialist is required who then applies to the Department of Health and Human Services for a legal authorisation to prescribe under the Cannabis Access Scheme (CAS). 

State Approval Process: All applications are reviewed by a delegate of the secretary of the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services in accordance with the usual pathways for Schedule 8 substances under Section 59E of the Act or for Schedule 4 cannabidiol under Regulation 70 of the Poisons Regulations 2008.

The Tasmanian Access and Advisory Committee review applications and communicate reasons for rejected applications directly to patients and the prescribing doctor.

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in TAS via our TeleHealth program, requiring only a TGA approval.

Process Approval Times: Not available

More Information: Department of Health and Human Services – Medicinal cannabis

South Australia – Medicinal Cannabis Access

Who can prescribe: Australian Registered Specialist Medical Practitioners and General Practitioners can make an application for their patients under the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

State Approval Process: No state-based approval required for Schedule 4 CBD products. 

In South Australia a section 18A authority is ‘required to prescribe a Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis product where it is being prescribed for

  • longer than 2 months, or 
  • to patient already prescribed a Schedule 8 drug for a period exceeding 2 months, 
  • for any person the medical practitioner reasonably believes to be dependent on drugs. 

Exemptions apply in South Australia for

  • patients aged over 70 years of age, and 
  • terminally ill patients whose doctors have notified the Drugs of Dependence Unit (Notified Palliative Care Patients).’ 

Tetra Health can prescribe any medicine for patients in South Australia via our TeleHealth program, only requiring TGA approval.

Process Approval Times: Less than one week unless more information is required.

More Information: South Australia Department of Health

Ready to get started? Book a phone consultation with one of our nurses today!