Australians will be able to access medicinal cannabis without a prescription as soon as February next year, after a change to the substance's legal status.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has said it will remove restrictions on the use and sale of cannabidiol (CBD) in Australia so that pharmacists can sell low-dose medicinal cannabis without prescription to those aged 18 or over.
A prescription is currently needed for CBD under the current TGA's Poison Standard but under the amendments approved CBD products could be sold from behind the counter with professional advice from pharmacists, at a dose of up to 150 mg a day.
It is a huge vote of safety for CBD. This major increase in allowable daily dose will significantly increase awareness and demand for CBD in Australia.Medicinal cannabis manufacturer Alex Keach
A government spokesman said no legislative amendment in Tasmania is required to reflect this change.
"Tasmanian legislation automatically adopts changes to TGA's Poisons Standard.
"Tasmania will continue to work collaboratively with the Australian Government and other States and Territories to ensure that any access to unapproved medical cannabis products is safe and consistent with high-quality evidence-based clinical guidelines."
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Cannabis Awareness Tasmania founder Lyn Cleaver said it was a shame that children are excluded from the changes to access but added that low doses of CBD would not assist young epilepsy sufferers nor would they help adults such as her son.
Such low doses of CBD might instead benefit those with anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and chronic pain.
"Parents are flocking to cannabis because everybody across the world is using it but this low dose per day is not going to be enough to treat a child with epilepsy as they need much greater doses to control their seizures," she said.
"Those doses are so low that you really should be able to buy them from the supermarket, but what these changes might do is prove the point that CBD, and cannabis generally, is incredibly safe and has a low profile for harm.
"This process will eventually lead us to a point where our government, our doctors, and our pharmacists say 'yes, this is a safe, therapeutic product that we can use to give to our patients'."
Medicinal cannabis closer to mainstream acceptance
Under the changes CBD will be listed as Schedule 3 "Pharmacist Only" medicine, and will not be sold like Schedule 2 "Pharmacy Medicines" such as paracetamol or ibropfuen.
Australia will also still differ from other countries such as the UK and the US, where CBD products, including those without medicinal claims, are widely available for sale online and over the counter.
The changes do however enable pharmaceutical companies to lodge application to get their CBD products tested for safety, efficacy and quality for inclusion on Schedule 3 and behind-the-counter pharmacist sales.
There are currently only six CBD medicines that are approved and listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, and these are all by international companies.
For industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis business ECS Botanics, which is currently constructing a medicinal cannabis manufacturing and processing facility in Northern Tasmania, the accepted 150 mg "low dosage" was a welcome move.
ECS managing director Alex Keach said it was a surprising but great decision for the Australian cannabis industry .
He said it would help medicinal cannabis become more socially acceptable, increase the demand for CBD products and ultimately reduce the self-medication black market.
"This final decision allows 2.5 times the daily dose than the interim decision and is a huge vote of safety for CBD," he said.
"This major increase in allowable daily dose will significantly increase awareness and demand for CBD in Australia."