Over-the-counter medicinal cannabis could be available without a prescription as early as February next year if the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) gets its way.
A TGA safety review published in April recommended low-dose medicinal cannabidiol (CBD) be reclassified from a schedule 4 (prescription-only) substance to schedule 3 (available at pharmacies only and kept behind the counter).
The move comes as prescriptions issued for medicinal cannabis surged by 300 per cent in the last 12 months while a senate enquiry uncovered barriers to accessing the drug.
A TGA spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the change could come into effect on February 1, 2021 with a decision expected on September 9. It would mean Australians over the age of 18 could access up to 60mg of CBD oil a day.
The review stated Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world in making medicinal cannabis easily available to patients.
It said: “There is increasing use, patient demand and health care practitioner interest in its use in clinical practice, as well as widespread use in over-the-counter medicines, complementary medicines and cosmetics in some countries.
“In Australia CBD is currently a schedule 4 substance and therefore only available with a prescription. This access is seen by many as too restrictive.”
However, Australian Medical Association Vice President Dr Chris Zappala said more research is needed before the change is approved.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he claimed: “It would be terrible if patients were of the view cannabis, with no evidence to support it, was better than an established therapy for a condition.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said scheduling changes are “a matter for the committee and the TGA in consultation with the States and Territories”.