As with any emerging industry, Medicinal Cannabis is often met with a healthy trepidation. After almost a century of misleading propaganda and patently false claims about the plant, an increased level of scepticism is somewhat warranted. However, even once an individual has been illuminated to the true and proven medicinal value of cannabis therapy, the highly-regulated Australian access system leaves many with a host of perceived barriers even more frightening that that of Reefer Madness. This article looks to address some of the most frequently asked questions from new patients with any relevant caveats.
Will My Health Insurance Be Affected?
Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: As with any appointment with your doctor, the medication you receive is strictly confidential. It is prescribed based on the best knowledge of the licenced doctor as per your condition, indications, personal medical history and conflicting medication. As such, you are under no more of an obligation to let your insurer know about your medicinal cannabis prescription as you would be for any other medicine you are prescribed. In fact, many insurance providers are now subsidising medicinal cannabis medicines as part of the offered coverage.
Caveat: While you are of no obligation to update your insurer with every specific prescription written by you medical advisors, many health and/or life insurance provides require notification particular illnesses or injuries you have sustained. This may in turn result in some questionings of what therapies are being undertaken and one should be completely honest in disclosing this information. This can be done with confidence as using a federally approved medicine is not grounds to cancel your insurance or increase your premiums.
Will I Get Arrested For Taking Cannabis?
Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: Provided you are prescribed by a fully licenced, AHPRA registered doctor (i.e. the team of Canwell Doctors) with a medicine that is registered through the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) or listed on the Special Access Scheme (SAS), then your cannabis and subsequent consumption is fully legal. In fact, over 150,000 prescriptions have been approved at the federal level with significantly more being prescribed by doctors that an independent Ethics Committee has approved as Authorised Prescribers.
Caveat: First, it is important to point out that if one is prescribed a whole flower, it must come from an approved manufacturer and cannot be substituted with a black-market product. While it is legal to consume the medicine you have been prescribed, there are obvious conditions, such as where it can be consumed (i.e. not inside a public, non-smoking venue) and the quantity being consumed (must be in accordance with your prescription). Further, depending on the THC quantity of the medicine, there may be some restriction with driving an automobile.
Can I Drive If I Am Taking Medicinal Cannabis?
Short Answer: Depends on product and/or time since consumption.
Long Answer: Currently, Australians are subject to roadside drug testing, which extends to THC. While each State has slightly different regulations (see a top line guide here), generally a saliva test can be undertaken at random or if an officer has reason to be suspicious of someone driving while impaired. The factors that come into play are what medicine has been provided. For example, a CBD Isolate will generally have trace amounts of THC lower than that approved for over-the-counter foods such as hemp seeds. As such, it is broadly fine to drive on. However, high THC products such as THC dominant Whole Flower by result in a positive test if consumed within the previous 12 – 30 hours.
Caveat: While some consumption methods do not result in a significant “high”, such as suppositories, it is advised that one refrains from driving if they believe there is a chance they will test positive. There is currently a significant push by patients, doctors and forward-thinking politicians to reform cannabis testing via Drive Change.
If you are taking using Cannabis be that illicitly or medically and want to add value to the information required and available to make a change, please take the following survey from Monash University.
Can I Travel With Medicinal Cannabis?
Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: As per any medicine you are prescribed, it is the expectation that it is taken as per your doctor’s orders. Hence, travel requirements should not impede ones need to medicate their condition. As such, it is legal to travel with any legally prescribed cannabis product via train, bus, plane, taxi, ferry or ride-sharing app.
Caveat: As medicinal cannabis is still an emerging industry in Australia, patients should expect that many will not be across all of the current legislation. To prevent any unwanted stress or conflict, it is important that the patient always has their prescription (on the product) with them when travelling. Moreover, it is advised that the medicine is declared and that the patient double-checks the destination’s local regulations around medicinal cannabis and its consumption.
Am I Required To Inform My Employer?
Short Answer: Depends on Employment.
Long Answer: For the majority of Australians, there is no legal requirement to inform your employer of your medical conditions or the subsequent treatment(s). However, there are many who are subject to randomised drug tests, such as mine workers or healthcare workers. If you fall into this category, it is essential that employees discuss their treatment with their employer, ideally via the Human Resources department. Many will permit medicinal cannabis if a medical exception is provided by the prescribing doctor.
Caveat: Even for those employers that do not subject their staff to drug test, patients may want to consider informing their employer of their medication if they believe it may have an impact, even in the most minor way. For example, if a patient is prescribed a high THC medicine, they may want to inform their line manager so they are aware at certain times they may appear ‘intoxicated’ due to the euphoric sensation delivered.
Who Will Know That I Have Received A Prescription?
Short Answer: Just you and your doctor.
Long Answer: At the end of the day, a consultation with a cannabis doctor is, by definition, is covered by the same privacy regulations as a visit with a regular doctor. With that said, no one else will be privy to your personal medical history other than those you chose to share it with.
Caveat: As mentioned above, there are a plethora of examples where, even if you aren’t obliged to advise of your treatment, it may help to avoid a longer conversation down the line.
Do you have a question about the process that isn’t covered on the Canwell website? Feel free to call our team on 1300 273 824 to a confidential discussion free of charge.