Key messages

  • Answers to a range of frequently asked questions about medicinal cannabis in Victoria.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is medicinal cannabis?

    In Victoria, medicinal cannabis refers to approved quality assured cannabis products prescribed by your doctor and taken to treat the symptoms of a medical condition or the side effects of treatment. 

    Use of recreational cannabis or smoking cannabis for medical reasons remains prohibited in Victoria.

  • Who can access medicinal cannabis products?

    Any patient, with any medical condition can apply via their doctor to use medicinal cannabis. All medicinal cannabis products need to be prescribed by a medical practitioner as part of an overall treatment plan.

    Where relevant, Commonwealth and State approvals must be granted before access can occur.

     
  • What Commonwealth approvals are needed to access medicinal cannabis products?

    Most medicinal cannabis products are not registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), and therefore have not undergone an evaluation of quality, safety and efficacy for supply in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). If a product is listed on the ARTG, then no Commonwealth approvals are required.

    Access to unapproved medicinal cannabis products is via the TGA’s Authorised Prescriber or Special Access Schemes (SAS) for therapeutic goods that have not been listed on the ARTG.  Any doctor can apply to the TGA for approval to prescribe a medicinal cannabis product to a patient, for any medical condition. The doctor will likely have to provide supporting evidence (including medical specialist support) that the product being prescribed is a suitable treatment for the patient’s condition.

  • What State approvals are needed to access medicinal cannabis products?

    Once Commonwealth approval is granted, no additional Victorian approval is required if the medicinal cannabis product is classified as a Schedule 4 medicine. Schedule 4 medicinal cannabis preparations for therapeutic use must contain at least 98% (of total cannabinoids) cannabidiol (CBD) and contain 2% or less of other cannabinoids including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis.

    A Victorian treatment permit under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act, 1981 is required if the doctor intends to prescribe a Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis product, which are generally those medicinal cannabis preparations containing higher proportions of THC. This is a requirement which applies to treatment with any Schedule 8 drug, such as opioids – it is not a special medicinal cannabis requirement. A Victorian treatment permit is also required for Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis product that are registered on the ARTG (in which case no Commonwealth approvals are necessary).

    The Victorian Office of Medicinal Cannabis is committed to assessing applications for Schedule 8 permits within one working day of receipt of all necessary documentation.

    While we encourage applications to be lodged concurrently with both the Commonwealth and Victoria, the Victorian permit cannot be finalised until the doctor has obtained the necessary Commonwealth approval.

  • Have any medicinal cannabis products been registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG)?

    Therapeutic goods registered on the ARTG have undergone an evaluation for quality, safety and efficacy. There is currently only one medicinal cannabis product, Nabiximols (Sativex®), listed on the ARTG as a schedule 8 controlled drug.

    The approved indication for Nabiximols (Sativex®) is “treatment for symptom improvement in patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS) who have not responded adequately to other anti-spasticity medication.”

    As Nabiximols contain more than 2% THC, a Victorian Schedule 8 Treatment permit is required in order to prescribe Nabiximols (Sativex®). However no Commonwealth approvals are required.

  • How do I apply to access medicinal cannabis products?

    For patients, the first step is to discuss medicinal cannabis with your doctor. Legal medicinal cannabis products can only be accessed via prescription from your treating doctor or specialist, and only if your treating doctor or specialist believes medicinal cannabis will be beneficial in the treatment of your condition.

    Where relevant, your doctor will need to apply for the relevant Commonwealth and State approvals to access medicinal cannabis products.

    For more information about accessing medicinal cannabis, please visit the access to medicinal cannabis page.

     
  • What medicinal cannabis products are available in Australia?
    The Office of Drug Control (ODC) publishes a regularly updated list of importers and manufacturers of medicinal cannabis products on its website, which may assist in identifying products available in Australia. 

    More information on medicinal cannabis products is available here. It is important to note that these products can currently only be accessed via Special Access Scheme (SAS) Category B.

    It is possible to prescribe a medicinal cannabis product not already in Australia, but appropriate import permits from ODC will also be required.
     
  • What are the benefits of medicinal cannabis?

    Although the evidence base for medicinal use of cannabis is developing quickly, scientific knowledge about how it affects the body is quite new.

    The Commonwealth, together with Victoria and other States, has developed a series of clinical guidance documents to assist medical practitioners and patients to understand the evidence for the potential uses of medicinal cannabis products. These documents provide information on the available evidence and guidance on how to prescribe medicinal cannabis products under the Australian access scheme. 

    These documents can be accessed here.

     
  • My doctor doesn't think medicinal cannabis is the right treatment for me. Should I get a second opinion?

    There are many things to consider when making a decision that relates to your ongoing health or medical treatment. Seeking a second opinion for important healthcare decisions from another healthcare professional can give you reassurance that you have made the right decision or give you the opportunity to make a different choice about a diagnosis or treatment.

    The Better Health Channel has some useful information and tools which may assist you in making decisions related to your healthcare:

  • What is the Victorian Compassionate Access to Medicinal Cannabis Scheme?

    The Victorian Compassionate Access Scheme, administered by the Office of Medicinal Cannabis, within the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services, provides access to an imported highly purified medicinal cannabis product for Victorian children suffering from severe intractable epilepsy. 

    The number of places available for the scheme remains limited, with strict eligibility criteria in place to ensure this product reaches the most unwell children. 

    These children are the focus of the Compassionate Access Scheme because of their severe illness and the inability of existing medicines to adequately control their seizures. For some, medicinal cannabis has been able to improve their lives, and the lives of their families by reducing the number of life threatening seizures they experience.  

     
  • What is the cost of medicinal cannabis?

    The costs of medicinal cannabis products can vary substantially from $100 to $1000 per patient per week, depending on the nature of the condition being treated, the particular product required, and the prescribed dose.

    No medicinal cannabis products are currently subsidised by the Commonwealth Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) meaning that the full cost must be paid by the patient. 

     
  • Is there a difference between cannabis / marijuana and medicinal cannabis products?

    Yes. Medicinal cannabis products are standardised, quality assured products prescribed to treat symptoms of a medical condition or the side effects of treatment under qualified medical supervision. 

    These are only legally available via prescription from your doctor and with relevant State and Commonwealth approvals. 

    The use of cannabis / marijuana for recreational purposes, and medical use outside regulated pathways, remains prohibited in Australia.

  • Is it now legal for me to smoke cannabis for medicinal purposes?

    No, cannabis remains a prohibited drug in Australia and its use and supply is controlled by a number of Commonwealth and Victorian laws.

    Medicinal cannabis products are standardised, quality assured cannabis products prescribed to treat symptoms of a medical condition or the side effects of treatment under qualified medical supervision. 

    Medicinal cannabis products should not be smoked for medicinal purposes (smoking does not include vaporising).

    All legal pathways require the support and monitoring of a treating medical team, who need to seek the appropriate approvals on behalf of the patient.

    Outside of these parameters cannabis - in any form - remains a prohibited drug. 


  • Is it now legal for me to grow my own cannabis for medicinal purposes?

    No, people cannot grow their own cannabis for medicinal use - this remains illegal.

    The cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis must be done under an appropriate licence and permit granted under the Commonwealth licensing scheme.

    Licenses are issued according to criteria set by the Commonwealth and do not allow cultivation of cannabis for personal use, medicinal or otherwise. More information is available on the Office of Drug Control website.

  • I have found medicinal cannabis products available online. Are these products legal?

    No. While there are a number of websites selling products which claim to be 'Medicinal Cannabis' products, only products prescribed by your doctor are legal and can be assured of safety and consistency.

    Buying any drug online can involve risks; products may be unregulated, and may contain illegal or toxic substances.

    The Office of Drug Control (ODC) publishes a regularly updated list of importers and manufacturers of medicinal cannabis products on its website, which may assist in identifying suitable quality-assured products available in Australia. 

    The Better Health Channel has some useful information regarding the risks of self-medication and buying medicines online.

  • How can I get a licence to cultivate medicinal cannabis?

    Medicinal cannabis cultivation is regulated by the Federal Government under the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967. For more information on cultivation refer to the Office of Drug Control.

  • How can I obtain a licence to manufacture medicinal cannabis?
    Medicinal cannabis manufacture is subject to dual federal-state regulation. The Office of Drug Control is now accepting applications for Commonwealth manufacturing licences and there are additional Victorian licencing requirements under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981. More information is available here.
  • What is an 'eligible patient'? Do I need to be an 'eligible patient' to access medicinal cannabis?

    The proposed Victorian medicinal cannabis access scheme as set out in the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016, specified that access to medicinal cannabis would be restricted to 'eligible patient' groups.

    However, under Commonwealth pathways there is no restriction on patient groups. Victorian patients can access medicinal cannabis for any medical condition, provided they have the support of their doctor, the product is prescribed by their doctor, and the appropriate Commonwealth (and for some products, also State) approvals are obtained by their doctor.

  • Is access in Victoria restricted to particular medical conditions or patient groups?

    Any doctor or specialist can apply to prescribe medicinal cannabis for any medical condition if they believe it is clinically appropriate, and the relevant Commonwealth and State approvals have been obtained.

    The Victorian compassionate access scheme is limited to children with severe intractable epilepsy.

  • What is the compassionate access scheme?

    In March 2017 the Victorian Government provided early compassionate access to imported medicinal cannabis for 29 of the most severely ill Victorian children with intractable epilepsy.

    Funding has now been allocated to continue and expand this scheme over the next two years to provide access to up to 60 children with severe intractable epilepsy.

    Further information about the compassionate access scheme will be available on our website shortly.