Medical cannabis available by prescription

Tasmanians will have legal access to medical cannabis via doctor prescriptions from today, but general practitioners warn that a cautious approach will be taken when prescribing.

The Liberal government promised increased access to medical cannabis as part of their updated health policy in March this year, making Tasmania the last state in Australia to allow GPs to prescribe it to their patients.

Some, like Tasmanian pharmacist Borys Szydlowski, believe easier access will benefit many people who suffer from chronic pain, and will offer safe and regulated medical cannabis instead of illegal and untested varieties that are available online.

But Royal Australian College of General Practitioners state chair Tim Jackson said more clinical evidence on the efficacy of medicinal cannabis is needed before it can be used for chronic, non-cancer pain.

He said doctors would not prescribe medical cannabis as a first line of treatment.

“If patients are thinking this is a panacea for everything I think they will be very disappointed. There may be a few patients who benefit from it, but the vast majority will not,” Dr Jackson said.

“As recently as last month the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists and Faculty of Pain Medicine said we should not be using this for chronic, non-cancer pain unless it is part of a trial.

“Like any treatment we have to be able to put our hand on our hearts, weigh up the pros and cons for our patients, and be really sure that these treatments will not cause them any harm.”

Both Mr Szdlowski and Dr Jackson raised the issue of a grey area in the law, where people with THC based medicinal cannabis could be breaking the law if they drove.

“If you are taking medical cannabis we have to recommend that you don’t drive,” Dr Jackson said.

Written by: The Advocate