Low dose cannabidiol (CBD) has just been approved for over-the-counter sale in pharmacies across Australia, following a decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. However, due to the fact there are no products approved yet for over-the-counter sales it will be some time before they will actually be available.

When they become available adults will no longer need a referral, special approval, or prescription to purchase the marijuana extract, which is used by patients to treat a number of health issues including pain and insomnia.

Matt Cantelo, CEO of Australian Natural Therapeutics Group, one of the largest growers and producers of medical cannabis in the country, believes one of the biggest barriers for patients has been accessibility to the life-saving medication.

He said many patients in Australia are unable to afford the ongoing costs of imported medicinal cannabis – which can be as much up to $50,000 a year – for the treatment of ailments like epilepsy induced seizures.

‘We are seeing patients forced to the black market, or even trying to grow their own, which is not legal, nor safe,’ said Mr Cantelo.

Now that situation has changed.


COVID-19 and other impacts

The coronavirus pandemic has  seen spikes in the number of Australians using CBD to treat conditions like anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

Another case study from Australian Natural Therapeutics Group is that of father of two Simon, who fractured his spine playing footy when he was seventeen.

For years he sought relief from the pain through a cocktail of opioids and painkillers, taking up to 15 tablets a day, but suffering terrible side effects, even worrying he’d overdose.

Simon has now found a way of managing the pain with medical cannabis and now he can work and look after his family. In 2018 he was the first person in NSW to be allowed to use medical cannabis for chronic pain.

Medical cannabis remains controversial however, with some people saying the plant should be entirely legalised and taken out of the hands of big business, and others arguing that the risks of cannabis outweigh the benefits.