Healthcare practitioners have been urged to warn patients they could face prosecution if they fail to stick to strict rules governing how medicinal cannabis is carried.
The call comes after Hannah Turner faced Noosa magistrates on drug charges earlier this year despite having a prescription for her medicine.
Turner was charged with possession of a dangerous drug after being stopped by patrol officers while walking her dog at a nature reserve in June.
According to court documents, police were responding to complaints about people “smoking drugs in the area” when Turner volunteered she had a quantity of cannabis in her car. She said she had taken some of the prescription medicine out of its labelled container, which was also in the car, and put it in a clip-sealed bag.
She was charged with possession of a dangerous drug because the cannabis was not “stored in the container where it was supposed to be kept”, pleaded guilty and was given a A$300 good behaviour bond with no conviction recorded.
However, she insisted she was never told the medicine had to be kept in a certain container and said more warnings should be given to patients about how to carry the drug.
“It was the tiniest little bit that was left – less than a gram – and they give you these 10-gram canisters that are quite large, so if I have a tiny bit left, I’ll put it in a little bag,” she said.
“I don’t want someone to be put in that situation who doesn’t have the resources like I do, who can’t call their dad and get a good lawyer, who may potentially have epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease and have their medication taken away from them.
“People who are doing the right thing shouldn’t be treated like criminals and there just needs to be more clarity around the law as well, because how are you supposed to do the right thing if you don’t even know something as simple as that is breaking the law?”
Turner was prescribed the drug for PTSD, anxiety and insomnia and said she had no idea keeping it outside the original packaging was breaking the law.
“I just was not aware because I was never told that by my doctor,” she added. “I was never told any information on how to store it.”
Clinical researcher Dr Janet Schloss, from Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Health, agreed there was a lack of education from healthcare practitioners about the way patients should handle their drugs.
She said the restrictions effectively require patients — particularly those with chronic pain — to carry around large quantities of medicinal cannabis, but that was not always practical.
“If it’s a big container, you don’t want to be carrying that around all the time,” she said. “Number one, it’s quite bulky. Number two, it’s a lot of money that you’re carrying around. There’s a big risk assessment that needs to occur.”
In a statement, Queensland Health said the regulations ensured “ongoing treatment is monitored by an authorised doctor and that the quality and consistency of the prescribed product meets national standards”.
“It also ensures the patient can continue using the prescribed treatment if they are admitted to hospital for any reason.
“Like any lawfully prescribed and dispensed medicine, medicinal cannabis will have a label which confirms the name of the prescribing doctor and where the medicine was dispensed.”
During the sentencing hearing, magistrate Matthew McLaughlin conceded the drug was legally obtained and described Turner’s circumstances as “an interesting conundrum”.