In the first of a two-part investigation, Cannabiz editor-at-large Rhys Cohen analyses the TGA’s handling of medicinal cannabis advertising complaints and explains why the body is struggling to keep up.

Since 2018, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has received more than 450 complaints regarding advertising of medicinal cannabis. As of September 21, 2020, only 202 of those cases had been resolved.

Not only that, but of a sample of 96 medicinal cannabis advertising complaints completed since 2018, the TGA missed their time-to-action performance target in more than 50% of cases (more on that shortly).

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The issue of advertising and medicinal cannabis in Australia is confusing and dynamic. And it is hard to get a clear picture of how advertising guidelines are being interpreted and what this all means for the industry.

So make a cup of tea, settle in, and let’s get started.

Advertising medicinal cannabis to the public

According to the TGA guidelines, advertising or promoting the use of medicinal cannabis to the public is not permitted.

Some advertising cases are very clear cut. For example, product companies must not have names and pictures of their products on their publicly-facing websites, press releases, ASX announcements, social media, blogs etc.

The guidelines also restrict the promotion of classes of restricted drugs (such as benzodiazepines and cannabinoids), not just specific products. So promoting ‘medicinal cannabis’ to the public, even if it’s not a specific product, is also not allowed.

Medical services may be promoted to the public in Australia, but not in a way that promotes a prescription medicine. So pain clinics are fine, but opioid clinics are not. The guidelines allow beauty salons to advertise lip fillers (medical service) but not Botox (a prescription-only medicine).

Rhys Cohen

As well as being editor-at-large at Cannabiz, Rhys is the director of Cannabis Consulting Australia, which provides commercial consulting services to various domestic and international cannabis companies....