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Am I Eligible For Medical Marijuana (Cannabis)?

Understanding eligibility for medical cannabis in Australia isn’t black and white. In this article, you’ll learn about the three questions you must answer in order to understand whether you qualify for medical cannabis.

In this short video Clare Barker, the GM of Entoura, explains medical cannabis eligibility in Australia.

Who qualifies for medical cannabis in Australia?

Even though medical cannabis has been legal Australia-wide since 2016, many people still don’t understand if they meet the qualifications for medical cannabis.

While information about access is becoming more available on the web, most of the information is convoluted and unclear.  

There’s also a misconception that medical cannabis is a last resort (meaning, you must exhaust all other available treatments before you’re eligible for medical cannabis). This is not correct. At the inquiry into medical cannabis access, Professor John Skerrit, a Department Secretary and The Department of Health and representative of the TGA said:

I want to clarify: it’s not that all other options have been exhausted. This is the Special Access Scheme for unapproved medicines, there is the requirement in law that they have to explain what they’ve tried, and it (cannabis) would generally not be seen as first line. We have heard today incorrectly that this scheme is only for if every other single medicine has been exhausted…

How to determine if you are eligible for medical cannabis

In this article there’s one goal. By the time you finish reading you should be able to answer the question, “Am I eligible for medical marijuana (cannabis)?”

To determine your eligibility for medical cannabis, there are three simple questions you must ask.

  1. Do you have a chronic medical condition or conditions that may be treated by cannabis?
  2. Have you tried other treatments for your medical condition(s)?
    1. Types of treatment that count.
  3. Have those treatments ‘failed’ to provide relief of symptoms from your medical condition?

We’ll also answer the question:

If you’d like to visualise the process you can jump to the medical cannabis eligibility decision tool infographic below.

Now we’ll give you context for how to answer each question.

Do you have a chronic medical condition or conditions that may be treated by cannabis?

A list of approved conditions for medical cannabis in Australia

Medical cannabis is approved to be prescribed for over 50 conditions in Australia. There are a few important things to be aware of when talking to your doctor.

There’s no official list of medical conditions that the TGA approves cannabis for 100% of the time. Because of this, a doctor can technically apply for medical cannabis for any condition as long as you meet the other eligibility requirements and they can provide evidence for its treatment.

The following is a current list (of conditions for cannabis treatment) that the TGA has approved medicinal marijuana for in the past:

AcneEpilepsy / Seizure management
ADHD symptomsFibromyalgia
Alzheimer’s diseaseGlaucoma
Anorexia and wastingInsomnia
AnxietyIschemia
ArthritisMigraines
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptomsMultiple Sclerosis
Autoimmune disordersNeuropathic pain
CachexiaNeuropathies
Cancer & Cancer PainOpioid dependence
Cardiovascular diseasesPalliative care
Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV)Parkinson’s Disease
Chronic infectionPolymyalgia Rheumatica
Chronic painPost CVA Neuropathy
Chronic Regional Pain SyndromePsychiatric disorders (varying)
DementiaPTSD
DepressionRadiculopathies
DiabetesRheumatoid Arthritis
DystoniaSleep disorders
EndometriosisSpasticity from neurological conditions
EpilepsyTremors

Just because your condition isn’t on this list doesn’t mean that you’re not eligible – you may still be eligible for medical cannabis. 

So the two key factors here are:

  1. Medical condition
  2. Chronic (more than 3 months)

Now that you know the conditions medical cannabis has been approved to treat, let’s talk about your treatment history.

Have you tried other treatments for your medical condition(s)?

While on face value this question seems obvious, it’s actually not as black and white as you’d think. People often ask, is one other treatment enough? Do over the counter medications count? What if I’m worried about side effects and I don’t want to try certain medications. 

Cannabis is not a first or even second-line treatment in Australia. However, you don’t have to have exhausted all other treatments. You simply must have tried multiple treatments. Now you’re thinking, “Is three enough?”. The answer is that if you’ve tried three or more treatments, pharmacological or a mix of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments, and you’re still struggling, you’re likely eligible. 

Types of treatments that count

It’s important to understand that both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments may count as other treatments. 

Let’s use an example. If a doctor wanted to prescribe opioids but you didn’t want to take them due to a fear of side effects, and you tested other herbal treatments instead, that may count. If you’re suffering from a mental health issue like anxiety but you’re concerned with side effects of an antidepressant, meditation and other herbal medications may count.

The takeaway here is that pharmacological treatments are not the only treatments that count.   

Have those treatments ‘failed’ to provide relief of symptoms or caused unbearable side effects?

Answering this question is not black and white either. Remember that,  in answering these questions, your doctor will need to build a case for why you’re moving on to medical cannabis.

When thinking about your eligibility, you can answer this question in two ways:

  1. Why have the other medications not worked?
  2. Why were other medications not tolerable for you?

Answering why medications haven’t worked is pretty straightforward. Did a medication relieve the symptoms of your condition or improve your quality of life? If the answer to that is no then explain why. Did the medication cause serious or intolerable side effects, explain why.

Another way to look at a failure of treatment relates to intolerance to a medication and the route of natural therapies. There are scenarios where a medication may help treat a condition or symptoms but have bad side effects. If your side effects outweigh benefits then continuing the medication is not an option. Therefore that treatment has been ruled out due to side effects.

In other cases, the TGA will look at a genuine concern of side effects along with other treatments as a failure of other treatments. You can’t simply say that you’re worried about the side effects of other drugs and start cannabis, you truly must have tried other therapies.

If I have a history of substance abuse or dependence, am I still eligible for medical cannabis?

The answer is possibly. Having a history of substance abuse doesn’t rule you out from being eligible for medical cannabis. But, it may make it harder for you to get access. If you are in this boat and meet all the other criteria, it’s going to be best to talk to your GP or a cannabis specialist about your case.

Bringing it together

In conclusion, there is no ‘formula’ for whether you’re eligible, however, if you have read this article and believe you’re ticking the boxes by answering the three questions above, then you’re likely eligible for a medical cannabis prescription in Australia. Eligibility is the same in each state, however, access pathways vary slightly in some states.

Due to how taboo cannabis still is in Australia the journey to becoming a patient isn’t always easy. We hope that this has helped clarify your eligibility and wish you all the best on your journey.

After reading this article, if you’re still unsure we’d recommend talking to your GP or another medical specialist about it. If your GP isn’t able (or interested) in helping you then it might be worth speaking with a clinic. Here’s a visual overview.

Determine your eligibility for medical cannabis

steps to determine eligibility for medical cannabis

Information

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Clare Barker

Care is the General Manager at Entoura, a patient education and medical cannabis manufacturer. While she is excited about providing high quality medical cannabis products to patients, patient education and advocacy are her true passions.

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Tom Brown

Tom is a co-founder of honahlee, startup junkie, a cannabis enthusiast and a digital marketer. His interest in cannabis began as a teenager growing up in New York. Tom loves to trawl through cannabis research, documenting cannabis truths and myths. He started honahlee to help reduce the stigma around cannabis in Australia by educating people about the many uses of the plant.

Disclaimer

The team at honahlee are not doctors and are not providing medical advice. The honahlee team is not recommending the use of marijuana (cannabis) for medical or adult use purposes. Cannabis does not work for everyone and may have negative side effects. In Australia, medical marijuana (cannabis) is regulated by the TGA. If you think cannabis is right for you, please consult with your doctor or specialist.