Access to medical cannabis in Western Australia will improve after the government allowed GPs to prescribe it without having to refer patients to a specialist.
The change brings the state in line with New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria and continues a trend of liberalization in Australia. Anyone over 16 can now visit their GP and receive cannabis to treat conditions like multiple sclerosis and chronic pain without having to endure the rigmarole of being referred to a specialist.
Anyone under the age of 16 and adults with a history of drug abuse will still need to be referred for specialist approval.
“Medicinal Cannabis is often prescribed as a drug of last resort for people who are suffering and in terrible pain, this announcement underpins the McGowan government commitment to putting patients first,” said Western Australia Health Minister Roger Cook.
The state government reviewed almost three years of prescribing data, from legalization in November 2016 to August 2019, before deciding to loosen its regulations.
Medicinal cannabis products are not approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration or funded by the federally controlled Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.
States and territories in Australia have been able to create their own regulatory frameworks around cannabis to a certain extent. In September, the Australian Capital Territory – which contains the capital city of Canberra and is similar to the District of Columbia in the U.S. – became the first jurisdiction in the country to legalize recreational cannabis use.
Just like D.C., the sale of cannabis remains outlawed, but residents will be permitted to grow and possess marijuana from 2020, although the federal government may try to intervene.
A nascent cannabis production industry is starting to take shape across the country, and Western Australia-based producer Little Green Pharma recently completed Australia’s first export to Europe.
Fleta Solomon, managing director at Little Green, said the decision to streamline the prescription process in the state will make a huge difference to patients who have previously been disadvantaged by the state’s “time-consuming and costly” access process.
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