Caroline Schofield. Picture: Scott Powick
Caroline Schofield. Picture: Scott Powick

‘Treated like a criminal’: Medicinal cannabis shortage

GOLD Coast medicinal cannabis users are running short on supplies, forcing legal users to turn to the black market, a patient advocacy group claims.

Industry experts, advocates and patients say the Christmas demand and strict prescription regulations have delayed supply, with some varieties completely sold out.

Coomera’s Caroline Schofield suffers from chronic back pain, epilepsy and PTSD and uses cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Picture: Scott Powick
Coomera’s Caroline Schofield suffers from chronic back pain, epilepsy and PTSD and uses cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Picture: Scott Powick

It has left some without treatment for up to a month.

Advocacy group Medicinal Cannabis Users Australia (MCUA) say they feel they are being unfairly treated, arguing delays of any other medication would be treated as a national emergency.

Under regulations, an individual can only receive a prescription for a specific strain of cannabis. To change strains they must seek further approval first from a doctor and then from the therapeutic Goods Administration which can take weeks.

For those waiting on their approved variety the delays can be long and painful.

Coomera's Caroline Schofield waited three weeks for her approved cannabis variety 'beacon sensi star' at Christmas. Suffering from chronic back pain, epilepsy and PTSD, the medicinal cannabis had been an alternative to the highly addictive opioids she was previously on.

"I couldn't get any of my approved variety, but it isn't just like I can go to the pharmacy and ask for the generic version instead," Ms Schofield, 45, said.

"I explored getting a prescription for what was available but the wait for the doctor alone was two to three weeks, then I'd have had to have been approved which could take months.

"I've a friend who uses traditional opioids and doctors could prescribe them to her no worries, but I am treated like a criminal and had to go without.

"I feel something needs to be done, access needs to be streamlined."

MCUA president Deb Lynch of the Gold Coast said the government should support the supply chain and access to non-toxic alternatives.

Cannabis buds grown for medicinal use in Australia. Picture: THC Global
Cannabis buds grown for medicinal use in Australia. Picture: THC Global

"Many of these patients have given up conventional medications with toxic side effects in search for a better quality of life - which many have been experiencing since switching to the herbal alternative," she said.

"The shortage of legal product is forcing more and more patients back to the green and black market. Patients have had enough of the supply issues and want the problem fixed."

Cannabis Doctors Australia founding director Dr Ben Jensen said the shortages of some lines could be put down to growing demand.

"It is the Christmas rush more than anything but that is compounded as each product is approved individually.

"The patient needs to return to get a new script for a different line if something is out, it is not easily transferable."

Dr Jansen is seeking Federal Government rule changes.

Originally published as 'Treated like a criminal': Medicinal cannabis shortage


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