Since medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016, Queensland has led the way in granting access to the green.
The latest government data shows there’s been more prescriptions approved in our state than almost all other states and territories combined.
But where can you access medicinal cannabis prescriptions and products in Cairns?
The Tropic team spoke to a local pharmacist to answer those questions.
Most medicinal cannabis products are unapproved therapeutic goods, which means they have not been assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Association for safety, quality or effectiveness.
However, where clinically appropriate, doctors can apply to access medicinal cannabis products for their patients through the Special Access Scheme (SAS).
Queensland has recorded 34,000 SAS category B approvals in the past four years, compared to 18,500 in NSW and 14,000 in Victoria.
This number is on par with NSW, Victoria, SA, ACT, Tasmania and the NT combined, while WA recorded 5681 approvals in the same period.
Looking at the topic locally, Cairns Doctors on Barr Street has GPs and staff with over two years’ experience in prescribing medicinal cannabis.
Pease Street WholeLife Pharmacy and Healthfoods also has several pharmacists who are TGA approved and practised suppliers of medicinal cannabis.
The pharmacy has access to the largest range of medicinal cannabis products in Cairns, including plant-derived cannabinoids in liquid (oils or tinctures) and raw plant-derived material (floss or bud).
These products vary in levels of both CBD and THC, and cost anywhere between $110 and $375, depending on the formulation.
Frank Pappalardo, Pharmacist at WholeLife, believes medicinal use of cannabis will only continue to grow.
“It’s already becoming more widely accepted as a treatment option both off-label and for proven indicated use,” Mr Pappalardo told Tropic.
“I believe this will only become easier, more widely accepted and ultimately available with more long-term data to demonstrate its therapeutic uses.
“There are now over 100 different cannabis products available to prescribe and the Special Access Scheme approval can be gained within 24-48 hours.”
According to the TGA, there are “no restrictions on the medical conditions” for which a prescriber may apply to access an unapproved medicinal cannabis product for their patient.
Though it’s widely known to relieve chronic pain and cancer-related symptoms, Frank said medicinal cannabis can be used to treat a much larger list of conditions.
"Each case and ultimately medical condition is assessed and can gain approval if justified by the prescribing doctor," Mr Pappalardo said.
“Patients report many benefits of CBD, from relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity and pain to treating potentially life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy.”
“In particular, medicinal marijuana appears to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis (and nerve pain in general) where few other treatment options exist.”
“Medicinal marijuana can also be utilised as a muscle relaxant, and may lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders.”
“It’s important that we build on our knowledge about how medicinal cannabis can have a positive impact on many diseases and medical conditions and I’d urge Queensland to continue to be a leader in this field.” Warren Entsch, Member for Leichhardt
Nationally, there’s been over 80,000 successful applications for use of medicinal cannabis since the TGA started the SAS in 2016.
Almost 56,000 of those approvals have been in the last 12 months.
This story originally appeared in Tropic Magazine Issue 28. Read the issue here.