Australian doctor Olivia Lesslar says the medicinal cannabis industry still faces significant barriers to entry when it comes to persuading her colleagues to prescribe its products.

It’s 7.30am on a Friday morning at one of my partner’s practices. I’ve come in with him on my day off to do a one-off consult on a difficult case. I don’t know all the employees gathered, but I do know that the person looking casually confident, presiding over the massive tray of expensive bakery goods, must be the pharmaceutical rep.  

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Over the course of the 30-minute carb-loading session, the rep breezily talks up the benefits of some drug. There’s no obvious nerves, no need to convince, no hard sell… this clinic, this audience is a sure thing and the rep knows it. When it comes time for questions, the only one is “where did you get these croissants from?”

Dr Olivia Lesslar: time-poor doctors are discouraged from prescribing medicinal cannabis by unnecessary red tape.

I am appalled.

This scenario is played out in many medical practices across the country at least once a week, if not more. It is definitely a great way to get the “latest information” out to doctors… if you don’t mind a hefty side of bias with that and allowing the session to be curated by a company that has a vested interest in supplying you with information which benefits their bottom line. 

Pharmaceutical drugs play an important role in our healthcare system, but they are not our only tool, not by a long shot. When did pharmaceutical drugs take such precedence? When did leapfrogging safer alternatives to opioids and benzodiazepines become standard?

Doctors’ prescribing habits feed the general population’s attitudes to other tools in the toolbox, including natural substances like CBD (and THC). This “campaign” has been so successful, cannabis was demonised and criminalised for decades, leaving many to doubt its legitimacy even now that it is finally legal. 

Despite the changing tide, and the avalanche of evidence for CBD and THC for various conditions, there is still a lot of resistance from the medical community. Many still hang on to perceptions of CBD as a hallucinogenic/addictive/unsafe street drug.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...