Buying CBD Oil In Australia

Medical cannabis and CBD Oil are becoming increasingly popular in Australia. As the cannabis space grows, so does the amount of information and misinformation. New legal cannabis and medical cannabis companies, cannabis clinics and hemp-based product companies are constantly popping up online. 

With the media pumping out titles that are eye/ear-catching and stretching the truth, it’s hard to know what’s legal and illegal in the Australian cannabis and CBD oil space. We get the question, “Where can I buy CBD oil in Australia?” followed by “I’ve heard I can buy it…” too often. The goal of this article is to uncover the truth about buying CBD legally in Australia.

In short, CBD Oil is legal via a healthcare professional’s prescription and over the counter via a pharmacist. However, you will not find any products in pharmacies yet because no cannabis products currently meet the TGA guidelines to be sold in pharmacies. 

In this article, you’ll learn about the current state of prescription CBD oil and what you need to know about low dose over the counter CBD oil. We’ll also explain the often misunderstood topic of the personal importation scheme. Here’s an index in case you’d like to jump ahead:

Definition of cannabis oil in Australia

To understand why you can’t just pop into a local chemist to purchase CBD off the shelf, you need to know how CBD oil and cannabis are defined locally.

The TGA is clear on its definition of cannabis oil. They place cannabis oil into two categories:

  • Hemp oil
  • Hemp seed oil

Hemp oil (CBD Oil included)

Hemp oil is what you would likely call CBD oil. The TGA defines it as, “oil made from the green matter of the cannabis plant, usually containing a combination of CBD and THC. This is sometimes also called cannabis extract or ‘hash oil’, and is a form of medicinal cannabis.” 

This hemp oil is what a doctor might prescribe to you if you were successful in accessing medical cannabis. And, these substances are regulated and scheduled as Schedule 3 (over the counter via pharmacist), Schedule 4 or Schedule 8 drugs when purchased legally.

Hemp seed oil

Hemp seed oil is often what you’d purchase from a food supplier, a speciality hemp food store or even some health and beauty businesses. The TGA defines this as “being made by pressing the seeds of a cannabis plant, and usually does not contain either THC or CBD.” 

The TGA clarifies that some hemp seed oils containing negligible or zero CBD or THC and are legal to access without prescription. However, products that are available without prescription must comply with Food Standard Codes and Import Requirements.

So, now you probably think that the hemp seed oil rules give you an out – a way to purchase CBD oil without a prescription or even import it overseas. But, unfortunately, the answer is no; you cannot buy CBD oil in Australia without a prescription.

Where can I legally buy CBD oil in Australia?

At the moment there is only one option. To access CBD oil, which falls under the umbrella of medical cannabis, you must get a prescription from a healthcare professional. There are a couple of different ways to do this, which we explain in our article titled “How to access medical cannabis“. You can go through the following channels:

  • Your GP, Specialist or Nurse Practitioner (in some jurisdictions)
  • An authorised prescriber
  • Cannabis clinics

We’ll explain the process in a bit more detail below. If you’re looking for a local prescriber, you can visit our find a cannabis doctor tool and search by your postcode. We also have a list of cannabis clinics

The TGA has also approved low dose CBD to be sold over the counter. However, no cannabis products in Australia currently meet the requirements for sale in pharmacies. If you’re interested in being notified of when the first products are available in pharmacies, you can sign up for our newsletter below:

Please be aware of Australian companies that claim to be selling CBD Oil online – they are either doing so illegally or aren’t really selling CBD oil. 

Now we’ll cover two topics that are often misunderstood, the personal importation scheme and traveller’s exemption.

Does the Personal Importation Scheme or Travellers exemption allow for the importation of CBD oil?

No. According to the TGA rules, the personal importation scheme does not apply to cannabis in any form.

The traveller’s exemption is an option for individuals travelling into Australia with a legal prescription for medicinal cannabis. For the traveller’s exemption to apply, the product must be a therapeutic good supplied for medical treatment by a medical practitioner. The product must also have been dispensed in accordance with the prescription (i.e. dispensed through a pharmacist, rather than supplied through some other form of retail or other mechanisms).

In theory, under these guidelines, to use the traveller’s exemption, an individual living in Australia would need to have a prescription from an overseas doctor who dispensed the products to them via a pharmacy and then imported them, along with their prescription.

Here’s what can be imported

The office of drug control’s documentation on Hemp and CBD products makes everything more transparent. While it relates to importation, the regulations also clarify what CBD levels are legal in products. In addition, the guidelines state that you may import certain hemp products without permission and others require either a permit or a prescription.

The products you can import without permission are:

  • Hulled hemp seeds
  • Hemp seed meal
  • Hemp fibre
  • Hemp seed oil (if it meets the criteria)

Remember that hemp oil is considered a scheduled drug in some cases. If hemp seed oil meets the following qualifications, it is not a scheduled drug:

  • The total cannabidiol (CBD) content of the hemp seed oil is 0.0075% (75mg/kg) or less, and
  • The total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of the oil is 0.005% (50mg/kg) or less

It’s important to note that CBD would have no health benefits at this concentration in an oil or tincture. 

Now that you understand how to buy CBD oil legally, we’ll explain the specific laws around CBD in Australia.

Understanding CBD oil via pharmacy

As of 1 February 2021, it became legal for medicinal cannabis companies to sell low dose CBD Oil over the counter via pharmacists Australia-wide. Unfortunately, to do this, the products must be registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) and meet other requirements.

These products need to go through clinical trials and be proven both safe and effective. The trial process can take up to 12 months. They must then be approved, which can take up to another 12 months. So, we probably won’t see low dose CBD in pharmacies until at least 2023.

Understanding CBD oil via prescription

Any doctor in Australia can prescribe medical cannabis which includes CBD Oil. The patient process is straightforward and can be summarised into 3 steps:

  1. Understand the eligibility requirements
  2. Choose an access pathway
  3. Prepare to talk to your doctor

Whether you choose your regular GP, a new doctor or a clinic, the steps you’ll take as a patient are similar. First, you’ll see your doctor, who will assess your eligibility. They will then write you a prescription on the spot if an Authorised Prescriber (AP) or apply to the TGA via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) to write you a prescription. 

While most doctors and clinics charge a couple of hundred dollars for the appointments, the application process is not complex for prescribers. If a doctor attempts to charge an application fee of hundreds of dollars, look elsewhere.

The time you see your prescriber to the time you have your medication is, on average, about two weeks.

Buying CBD from online overseas companies

Various Australian websites provide links to reputable overseas websites where you can purchase CBD oil. And, while many countries allow the purchase of CBD online, buying CBD online overseas and shipping it to Australia is technically illegal. 

Many Australians decide that they’d prefer to go this route due to the perceived cost of cannabis in Australia. But, surprisingly, the price of legally prescribed CBD oil in Australia is on par with many overseas brands on a cost per mg level.

Since mid-2020, Australian customs has been seizing an increased number of shipments from overseas. We’ve even seen reports of people receiving letters from the government saying that their products had been confiscated. While these people never had any severe legal repercussions, it caused anxiety and probably isn’t worth the risk.

If you do decide to purchase CBD oil from overseas, we have two recommendations:

  1. Do your research and make sure that you’re buying products from a highly reputable company willing to provide third-party testing documentation.
  2. Check the total cost of the CBD oil you’re purchasing and compare that to the cost of legal CBD oil in Australia.

What about buying CBD from local online shops?

Every couple of months, we hear about new online Australian shops that claim to be selling CBD oil and that the oil they are selling is legal.

There are two categories that these companies will fall into:

  1. Products that contain some CBD, in which case are illegal
  2. Products that don’t contain any CBD and are therefore lying to customers

If the products do contain some CBD, then the odds of the product containing what’s listed are very low

Suppose you do purchase a product and don’t find any benefit from that product. In that case, it will be impossible to know whether the result is because it’s not the right product for you, you’re taking it incorrectly, or it doesn’t contain what’s listed on the label.

Consider this when buying CBD Oil

If you’re interested in purchasing CBD Oil, you are likely interested in positive health outcomes. Whether you want to help with pain, sleep, anxiety or another ailment, your goal is to improve your overall wellbeing.

While purchasing CBD oil online might seem like the easy solution, it’s technically illegal. It isn’t easy to know that you’re getting what you’ve purchased. The price of legal CBD products is reasonably close to the price of illegal CBD. Legal products are highly regulated, so you know you’re getting what’s on the label. 

If you purchase a product illegally and determine that it doesn’t contain the ingredients on the label, the only thing you can do is report the company to the TGA. The TGA has a considerable backlog of cannabis-related issues they are attending to and often takes up to 12 months to action complaints. The TGA may look into the website and send a cease and desist letter. However, you’ve purchased the product illegally, so there’s nothing that you can do to get your money back.

Conclusion

Now you understand the legalities around CBD oil in Australia. While unfortunate, the fact is that the Australian government has categorised CBD oil as a medicine and a scheduled drug. Therefore, to get CBD oil, you must have a prescription. 

Unless you have a license to import, you may not bring in CBD oil from overseas. A prescription, however, does not mean you can buy CBD oil online or from overseas. 

Your only options to access CBD oil are going through a doctor, a cannabis clinic, or waiting until it becomes available over the counter.

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