Medicinal cannabis

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

Document ID number 2429, version 3, 11 August 2017.

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 2016 establishes a legal framework for medicinal cannabis products of known quality and consistency to be supplied to eligible patients with appropriate medical oversight. The access scheme under this legislation will launch in the second half of 2017. Children with severe, intractable epilepsy will be the first eligible patient group under this scheme.

The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act works alongside the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 in regulating medicinal cannabis in Victoria.

Under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is either a Schedule 8 drug or a Schedule 4 drug. Schedule 8 drugs remain tightly controlled substances in Australia, with patients generally requiring a treatment permit from the Department of Health and Human Services. Use of Schedule 4 cannabis products, for example CBD only products, do not require approval at the state level.

For further information refer to the Office of Medicinal Cannabis 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. In addition, independent clinical trials of medicinal cannabis will continue to build the evidence base about efficacy and safety.

Children who reside in Victoria may be receiving medicinal cannabis approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) from an overseas provider prescribed by their medical practitioner. Children in this scenario may not require state authorisation. Therefore if presented with evidence a child is being administered medicinal cannabis, it is important to follow the standard practice of contacting all relevant professionals involved with the child to obtain information to confirm the evidence provided to inform the child protection assessment.

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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