Medicinal cannabis

This advice provides information regarding the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Introduction

See procedure Managing cases where medicinal cannabis is being used for tasks that must be undertaken.

Medicinal cannabis is a general term applied when cannabis is used for therapeutic reasons.

As a minimum, medicinal cannabis typically includes plant or synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD). Euphoric effects are associated with THC, whereas CBD is non-psychoactive. Black market products are of unknown quality and content and are often provided without any medical oversight.

The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2015 establishes a legal framework for medicinal cannabis products of known quality and consistency to be supplied to eligible patients with appropriate medical oversight.

Cannabis (marijuana, marihuana) is currently a Schedule 9 poison in Australia. This means it is a prohibited substance. For further information refer to the Drugs and Poisons Regulation page on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

There is growing evidence that medicinal cannabis may relieve symptoms of certain medical conditions in adults and children. There are limited studies that have investigated the long-term effects of medicinal cannabis use. Continued surveillance to monitor patient safety will be a key component of the medical cannabis scheme in Victoria.

More than a dozen countries have authorised the use of medicinal cannabis, including 24 states in the United States. A number of jurisdictions permit use by children, including the Netherlands, Israel, Canada and the United States.

Government approved clinical trials of synthetic medicinal cannabis for children with severe forms of epilepsy will continue to build the evidence base about efficacy and safety.
 

Considerations for good practice

A suite of documents regarding medicinal cannabis has been prepared by Health Canada and can be accessed online. Health Canada is a federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. The literature is primarily written in relation to the use of medicincal cannabis by adults. The Office of Professional Practice is to be consulted for expert advice in relation to children.

The Office of Medicinal Cannabis will be developing clinical guidance and education materials to complement implementation of the Victorian scheme.

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