Patients based in New South Wales (NSW), may now receive legal marijuana prescriptions from registered doctors. Previously, the herb was only available for clinical trials.
“This change increases the options available for doctors as it means a broader range of cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed – while we continue our evidence-based research looking further into the role medicinal cannabis can play,” said NSW premier Mike Baird.
Scope for Cannabis Prescriptions
NSW-based individuals seeking greener forms of treatment are not in the clear just yet. Local laws surrounding the medicinal use of the plant are very strict, and may take some time to fully materialize. Guidelines under the NSW Health to the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration indicate that patients suffering from devastating illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, are encouraged to participate in the program. Patients who have exhausted conventional forms of treatment may have a better chance of acquiring such prescriptions from a qualified specialist.
Officials did not clarify if the guidelines will be extended to accommodate chronic pain suffers, or individuals coping with PTSD. By comparison, in the United States, medical marijuana laws are laxer, and caters to a wider range of ailments. Baird clarified that patients holding medical cannabis prescriptions will have to wait at least 18 months before receiving the herb. This is due to numerous roadblocks that the group is currently facing in setting up key aspects of the program.
Allowing prescriptions is only a small (but crucial) part of NSW’s medical marijuana system. Officials are working with overseas growers for consistent supply of weed. NSW currently has a license to cultivate pot for medicinal use. It is likely that after growing regulations are in full effect, the organization will turn to local growers for supply. Baird suggests that it could be years until legal production of cannabis is thoroughly established in the area.
As mentioned earlier, before the release of the guidelines, patients were forced to engage in cannabis treatments via clinical trials. During the tests, a total of 330 patients participated in the program and were given marijuana in tablet form. So far, medical groups have been able to focus on chemotherapy patients and children diagnosed with severe epilepsy.
Researchers voiced out concerns related to patients resorting to the black market for weed out of desperation. By pushing for the implementation of medical marijuana laws and improving access to the plant, officials are hoping to curtail such trends. Locals are currently waiting for more information on the government’s plans for pharmaceutical distribution of cannabis medication. Initially, medicinal forms of the herb are expected to cost $15-$20 per gram.
“We have invested $21 million in a scientific approach to further our understanding about the safe and effective use of cannabis-based medicines so our patients in NSW have access to the best treatments possible,” explained Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward.