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What is Medical Marijuana in Australia?

Understanding the Basics of Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana, also known as medical cannabis, is a term used to describe the use of the cannabis plant or its extracts to treat medical conditions. In Australia, medical marijuana is legal, but only under certain conditions. Doctors may prescribe medical marijuana to patients who have exhausted other treatment options, and when the expected benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. The use of medical marijuana in Australia is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is responsible for ensuring that all medical marijuana products meet certain safety and quality standards.

How Does Medical Marijuana Work?

The cannabis plant contains compounds called cannabinoids, which interact with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is involved in regulating various physiological processes, including pain, inflammation, appetite, and mood. By interacting with the ECS, medical marijuana can help alleviate the symptoms of various medical conditions.

Forms of Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is available in various forms, including:

  • Dried flower: The most common form of medical marijuana, which can be smoked or vaporized.
  • Tinctures: Liquid extracts that can be taken orally or added to food or beverages.
  • Edibles: Foods or beverages infused with cannabis extract.
  • Topicals: Creams, lotions, or balms infused with cannabis extract that can be applied to the skin.

Conditions Treated with Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana can be prescribed for various medical conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Glaucoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Crohn’s disease

Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Australia

Medical marijuana was legalized in Australia in 2016, but only under strict conditions. The TGA oversees the regulation of medical marijuana in Australia, and only registered medical practitioners are allowed to prescribe medical marijuana products. Patients who wish to use medical marijuana must have a valid prescription from their doctor and obtain their product from a licensed supplier.

Benefits and Risks of Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has both potential benefits and risks, and it is important for patients and doctors to weigh these carefully when considering the use of medical marijuana.

Benefits of Medical Marijuana

The potential benefits of medical marijuana include:

  • Pain relief: Medical marijuana has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain, which is often difficult to manage with traditional painkillers.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Medical marijuana may help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for conditions such as arthritis.
  • Anti-anxiety effects: Medical marijuana may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Anti-epileptic effects: Medical marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing seizures in some patients with epilepsy.
  • Antiemetic effects: Medical marijuana may help alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy or other medical treatments.

Risks of Medical Marijuana

The potential risks of medical marijuana include:

  • Addiction: Like any substance that affects the brain, medical marijuana has the potential to be addictive.
  • Impaired mental function: Medical marijuana can impair mental function and reaction time, which can be dangerous when driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Respiratory problems: Smoking medical marijuana can cause respiratory problems, including chronic bronchitis and lung infections.
  • Psychiatric effects: Medical marijuana can exacerbate symptoms of psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

How to Access Medical Marijuana in Australia

To access medical marijuana in Australia, patients must first consult with their doctor. If the doctor determines that medical marijuana may be beneficial for the patient’s condition, they can apply for a special access scheme (SAS) permit from the TGA. Once the permit is obtained, the patient can obtain medical marijuana from a licensed supplier.


Medical marijuana is a promising treatment option for various medical conditions, but it is important to weigh the potential benefits and risks carefully. Patients who are interested in using medical marijuana should consult with their doctor to determine if it is a suitable treatment option, and follow all relevant regulations and guidelines when obtaining and using medical marijuana products.

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