‘Held to ransom’: Problem with new cannabis law
SERIOUSLY ill Queenslanders will have faster access to medicinal cannabis under new laws passed in parliament last night.
But patients being treated under the public health system will not be able to get the drug for free or subsidised.
Grandmother Deb Lynch, a public health patient who uses cannabis to ease pain after a blood disease resulted in her leg being amputated, said the laws would improve accessibility for the rich but not for public patients.
Ms Lynch, known as Logan's Canna Nanna, said the new laws would not change her access to cannabis, which she uses on a daily basis for pain maintenance.
"I'm part of the public health system which refuses to prescribe, even though my medicines could be prescribed and dispensed by Queensland Health hospitals," she said.
"I asked for the drug last month and was refused again.
"These changes are not going to help with easy access or affordability as most users are low wage earners or on social security and can't afford the exorbitantly overpriced commercial oils even if we can get a prescription.
"Getting a script from a doctor is virtually impossible and I am inevitably sent to one of the new cannabis access clinics.
"These clinics are asking ridiculously high prices for services which aren't guaranteed success. "Many patients complain about medicines not arriving after they've been paid for. It's still a shemozzle."
Health Minister Steven Miles said the government had repealed the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 to introduce new laws to make it easier for patients and doctors to access medicinal cannabis.
Under the changes, medicinal cannabis will be treated the same as other drugs of addiction (schedule 8 medicines) or prescription drugs (schedule 4).
The changes were aimed at streamlining the prescription process by removing state-level approval and were designed to ensure patients had faster access.
Ms Lynch, a founding member of the Medicinal Cannabis Users of Australia group also said the new laws would not reduce the cost of the drug locally.
"There have been many complaints from our members who are paying up to $800 an ounce for buds locally, as opposed to $300 an ounce from the free/black market.
"if you go to a doctor, it's more expensive and I can't afford a $350 consultation fee for a script I can't afford for overpriced, ineffective isolate medicines which are not the whole cannabis plant and don't have all the various cannabinoids or terpenes and flavonoids.
"I feel I am being held to ransom by commercial access clinics ripping people off."
Under the new rules, the Queensland government has stepped out of the way so patients can go to a specialised GP and get a script or to a commercially-run access clinic, such as the one at Belmont.
Access Clinic medical practitioner Dr Sanjay Nijhawan defended the Belmont clinic and said the cannabis access clinics were not product suppliers.
However, he said product cost was still an issue for many of his patients.
"Medicinal cannabis is currently not covered by the Pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) so unlike most medicines a patient would be familiar with, 100 per cent of the cost of these products comes from the patients pocket, making it unaffordable for many," he said.
Despite last night's changes, patients will still need to apply for the drug through the Special Access Scheme via the Therapeutic Goods Administration and adhere to all regulations.
The rules also state patients have to have exhausted all treatment methods or have had severe reactions to pharmaceutical drugs before it can be prescribed.
Ms Lynch said most GPs were still reluctant to prescribe cannabis oils and after most is exported there is only a small amount available domestically.
"That's why it is ridiculously overpriced when compared to Canadian and US markets," Ms Lynch said.
The Federal Government will maintain strict controls on the use of unapproved therapeutic goods through the Commonwealth licensing and approval system.
It will remain illegal for the Queensland public to grow cannabis for medical purposes.
There are no cannabis access clinics outside of south-east Queensland, making it difficult for regional patients to access the private service.
It's also out of reach for those on a budget. Out of pocket fees are $300 for an initial consultation.