Education and dispelling myths
There are many myths around about cannabis, and that is unfortunate as many are simply not true. There is quite a lot of scientific evidence about how cannabis works, its effects in the body and its effectiveness in a range of conditions. In other conditions, more evidence is needed. Education about medicinal cannabis is crucial in dispelling some of these inaccurate ideas, and empowering both doctors and patients. The not-for-profit organization Global Health Initiative, of which the author is CEO, is presenting its first conference on medicinal cannabis and mental health for practitioners in July 2019. It will also be developing online courses for healthcare practitioners as well as the public in the near future, and it has begun a Medicinal Cannabis Practitioner Register so that patients will be able to find a practitioner quickly.
How can I get access to medicinal cannabis products as a patient with endometriosis?
If you, as a patient, are considering if medicinal cannabis could be helpful for your endometriosis symptoms, you need to find a practitioner who is knowledgeable in medicinal cannabis and is happy to prescribe it. Black market sources are definitely not recommended – you have no real knowledge of what you could be getting and there is no quality control. That’s what the TGA does very well in Australia- quality control of medicines and complementary medicines in order to protect the public.
Your doctor will discuss whether medicinal cannabis might be suitable for you or not. The TGA make it very clear that medicinal cannabis is not a ‘first-line therapy’ meaning that other treatment options should have been tried first. If you and your doctor decide that medicinal cannabis is appropriate for you to try, then she/he will either apply to prescribe it via the SAS-B Scheme (which has a turnaround time of within 48 hours) or if they are an authorised prescriber already, they will write a prescription. However, if it is a Schedule 8 product, they need to apply to their state/territory health department for permission to prescribe it. Once you get the prescription, you take it to the pharmacist who then contacts the supplier of the medicinal cannabis product and it will be couriered to the pharmacy. You are then able to collect it. Pharmacies do not keep stock of medicinal cannabis products (in general).
A last thing to remember- in Australia, if you have any amount of THC in your body, and you are pulled over for a drug-driving test and test positive for THC, regardless of whether or not you are impaired by it, you have committed an offence under our driving laws. It doesn’t matter if you have a prescription for the medicinal cannabis product or not- you will be prosecuted under our laws. In Canada where recreational use of cannabis has been legalized in 2018, it is only an offence to drive with THC in your system if you are impaired by it. It is my opinion that our laws need to be changed.
By Professor Kylie O’Brien PhD,
Adjunct Professor at Torrens University. She is CEO of the Global Health Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation focused on medicinal cannabis education and research. She also conducts consultancy work with medicinal cannabis companies.