The Commonwealth Cannabis superpowers, Canada and Australia have been looking at European markets and in particular the UK because of the eventual size of the medical Cannabis markets that will develop. The UK government has still not taken the opportunity to supercharge cannabis for the medical use industry in the UK, as there are currently no companies producing seed to sale cannabis products for the CBPM market in the UK.
The UK government will have to change its position on cannabis soon due to the legal challenges of accessing medical cannabis, so we are looking at the processes different countries use to gain access to medical cannabis.
Australia – is leading the UK in the number of cannabis patients, but then again, they have a year’s head start on us. Australia now has roughly 70,000 patients in a population of 25 million. The UK has under 10,000 patients out of 66 million people.
|Metric||UK (pop 67.5 Million)||Australia (pop 25.5 Million)|
|People using Cannabis in a year||7.5%||11.6%|
|Medical Cannabis Patients||Under 10,000||Over 70,000|
Access and Prescribing
The Australian Federal Government operates the TGA – Therapeutic Goods Act and medical cannabis come under a section of this called ‘Special Access.’
This is very much the same way that the UK operates with medical cannabis being supplied as a “Specials Medication”.
The big difference is that a GP can prescribe medical cannabis in Australia if they fill out a ‘Special Access Scheme’ form for each patient. The process is done electronically through a fully automated system, which the UK currently has no equivalent to. The approval process, however, follows similar guidelines as the UK in that cannabis is only available if the patient has previously tried market authorised medications for a pre-existing condition.
What Australia does have is ‘Authorised Prescribers’ – doctors who can prescribe directly to patients with no special access form filling.– These doctors have now formed specialist clinics akin to those in the UK that are prescribing medical cannabis. The overall Australian healthcare system does have a charging system which means it costs to see a GP, unlike the UK. Though the costs of seeing a specialist Cannabis Doctor in Australia are around $250 AUD similar to the UK costs for being seen in a UK Cannabis clinic.
Dispensing and Products
The process of obtaining the actual medical cannabis is also remarkably similar. The doctor will issue a prescription that can not be dispensed by a pharmacy until the actual paper version of the prescription is in the pharmacist’s hand. This is the same in the UK and does cause real issues for patients both here and in Australia due to the delays a paper-based system creates in a “just in time system.”
In UK the majority of cannabis medications are not subsidised but in Australia, there are some health insurance policies that will allow the cost of CBMPs’s to be subsidised/ reimbursed.
There is currently only one part of Australia that has a liberal system called the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) where cannabis can be grown outdoors for personal use. This liberal reform will probably spread, especially in the next electoral cycle. This just proves things around the world are changing and where Canada has led others will follow.
The major point to note is Australia is developing a thriving Cannabis industry and the UK needs to catch up quickly and ensure we allow access where appropriate.
Driving and Cannabis
One area that Australia is behind the UK is being able to drive while using a Medical Cannabis prescription. In the UK there is a clear medical defence if a Drug drive test is failed and with a limit of 2 micrograms/litre that is almost certain. The Police then have to prove the driver is impaired for a successful prosecution. In Australia, there is a Zero tolerance limit of THC in the blood and so even those with a medical prescription can lose their license. This is a real impediment to the more widespread adoption of medical cannabis in Australia. The individual states in Australia are looking at this with Victoria probably first to adopt a change to permit medical Cannabis patients to drive legally.
AccessKaneh believes it is time for the UK to broaden access to Cannabis for medical use and learn from our Commonwealth partners best practise.
Join us if you want to be part of the change.