Is CBD Legal in Australia?
Cannabidiol or CBD, as well as cannabis as a whole, has been gaining popularity across Australia as an alternative medicine used to treat the symptoms of a number of conditions.
Well renowned for its medicinal benefits, CBD is the non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. Over the years, this powerful plant has been creating waves in the scientific community as a potential alternative therapy or quality-of-life supplement.
However, as it’s still relatively new in Australia, there are some questions that circulate CBD – mainly what it is, its legality, as well as how and when it can be used.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid that can be collected from cannabis plants. CBD is similar to the chemical composition of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol except for one key difference – it is non-psychoactive. This means that a person can acquire the effects of CBD without getting intoxicated or “high”.
Aside from the psychoactive difference of CBD, research in recent years has indicated promising results for the use of this cannabinoid. One study observed the ability of cannabis-based medicines to relieve “difficult to treat” pain often caused by cancer .
Meanwhile, another study discovered the capability of CBD, including other cannabinoids, to regulate nausea and vomiting . And, as recently in January 2021, CBD was found by doctors to have antibiotic effects.
CBD samples and analogues were shown to kill a wide range of difficult-to-treat bacteria. These are Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Some of which are responsible for gonorrhoea and meningitis.
The non-intoxicating ability of CBD combined with its potential benefits for a range of chronic conditions, one can see why more Australians are pushing for its legality.
Is it Legal in Australia?
In 2016, Australia’s Parliament passed the Narcotics Drugs Amendment, which legalised the medical use of cannabis nationwide. But it was in 2019 that Parliament legalised the recreational use of cannabis.
However, the 2019 law only legalised recreational use in the Australian Capital Territory or ACT. The passed law allows residents over 18 to possess and consume cannabis in the ACT.
Even though cannabis use is legal in the ACT, there are still laws that prohibit the consumption or being under the influence of the weed in certain respects. Two of these examples include driving and operating machinery. It can be considered similar to laws pertaining to drunk driving or driving while intoxicated.
In February 2021, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration down-scheduled CBD from a Schedule 4 (prescription-only) medicine to a Schedule 3 (pharmacist-only) medicine. However, there are still some compliance hurdles to jump over before Australians will be able to buy CBD over the counter at a pharmacy.
With many other country’s making medical cannabis and CBD legal years ago, Australia is still quite far behind when it comes to legalising this highly sought-after medicine.
By educating the public on the therapeutic effects of plant-based medicine like CBD, we can help remove the stigma against medical cannabis and in turn, make it more accessible to patients who are seeking alternative treatments for their conditions.
What are the Legal Pathways to Access CBD?
Although legal, CBD is considered a scheduled substance which means that there are some processes to go through before obtaining it. There are three legal ways to get CBD in Australia.
- The first is through your General Practitioner (GP) by way of prescription. Your GP knows you and your medical history best and will be capable of requesting to prescribe CBD for you. Before arriving at a mutual decision, your doctor will talk you through your options and treatment program.
Your GP has to follow the specific process laid out by the Therapeutic Goods Administration before you can actually access the product.
- Another pathway is through an Authorised Prescriber. An AP is a doctor that has gone through a rigorous approval process that examines their medical experience and cannabis expertise. This allows APs to prescribe CBD without frequently requesting approval from the TGA.
- “Clinical Trials” is the last option for people to gain access to CBD. Clinical trials, however, are scientific studies that may or may not have the intended benefit for you.
For context, a clinical trial is a type of research study performed in a group of people that aims to evaluate the effects of a medical, surgical, or behavioural intervention.
Talk to your doctor first before taking part and to see which clinical trial may be suited for you.
What are the common conditions CBD can be used for?
Studies indicate CBD to be potentially beneficial for a number of conditions. One effect that many use CBD for is pain relief. Whether it’s for post-workout pain, headaches, or general inflammation, studies have shown CBD has the potential to reduce or relieve pain altogether . CBD was also discovered to be potentially able to curb vomiting and assist in nausea .
As CBD becomes more widely available and accepted, so too will the research help us understand and unlock the full capabilities of this powerful medicine.
1. Russo, E.B. 2008. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/
2. Parker, L.A., et al. 2011. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165951/
3. Blaskovich, M.A.T., et al. 2021. The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-020-01530-y