Barriers to public access is fuelling a widespread lack of understanding of the role of medicinal cannabis

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As medicinal cannabis clinics continue to open in Australia, public knowledge on the therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis is still lacking.  

ACNEM welcomes the opening of these type of clinics and dispensaries, however we contend that the multiple barriers to public access to medicinal cannabis is fuelling a widespread lack of understanding of the role of medicinal cannabis. 

ACNEM calls into question recent publicity that contends that the evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis is “weak” and wants to see greater public understanding of the clinical benefits of medicinal cannabis.  

Global Health Initiative Australia CEO and ACNEM member Professor Kylie O’Brien PhD, is dedicating her career to helping doctors understand the scientific evidence and research in the use of medicinal cannabis. Prof O’Brien said, “There is evidence of efficacy of medicinal cannabis in several health conditions, and the scientific evidence base continues to grow, however there is a lack of education of healthcare practitioners and the public about its potential uses.”.  

The 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicines Report into cannabis and cannabinoids found substantial or conclusive evidence that medicinal cannabis or cannabinoids are effective in the treatment of : 

- chronic pain in adults 

- spasticity associated with MS 

- chemotherapy- induced nausea and vomiting  

The report also stated that there was moderate evidence of efficacy in the treatment of short-term sleep disorders associated with several conditions. The conclusions in this report were based on evidence from systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials. Much research has been published since.  

Prof O’Brien said, “The World Health Organisation Report on cannabidiol (CBD) published in 2018 indicates that CBD is safe, well tolerated, has relatively low toxicity and is not addictive.” She argues that CBD should be regulated as a complementary medicine on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods like other forms of herbal medicine, which will allow greater public access.  

ACNEM this year provided a strong submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee into the current barriers to patient access to medicinal cannabis in Australia.  

Medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia five years ago, however under the TGA it is considered an ‘unapproved medicine’, thereby requiring it to be prescribed via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or Authorised Prescriber (AP) Scheme. ACNEM firmly believes it is now time for it to be approved and that doctors should be able to prescribe it like any other medicine and not have to use the SAS or AP Scheme.  

To support medical practitioners’ use of medicinal cannabis and work to improve the understanding of CBD, ACNEM has partnered with the not-for-profit organisation Global Health Initiative Australia to present: Medicinal Cannabis Masterclass: Cannabidiol, THC and Clinical Applications. There is 1 spot left in this masterclass, if you are interested to join.