Last year the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) down scheduled CBD (cannabidiol) to a schedule 3 drug, this means it’s no longer a prescription medication and can be accessed over-the-counter in pharmacies.
While it’s a small win for those seeking medicinal cannabis, it certainly doesn’t come without caveats.
What does this mean for the legalisation of recreational cannabis use, including Australian CBD oil?
In this article, we’ll discuss how cannabis has drawn such a negative stigma throughout history, how prohibition came about in Australia, what the current state of play is regarding CBD oil, and whether we’re likely to see it legalised for recreational use.
Historical exile of cannabis
Cannabis has been embroiled in scandal and unjustly demonised since the Nixon administration initiated the war on drugs, a slanderous campaign that drove false stereotypes and tarnished the reputation of cannabis.
Sadly, the false narrative was also complicit in driving a racist, anti-leftist agenda and fostered a social divide between the mainstream and what was considered counterculture.
Films such as ‘Reefer Madness’ and other propaganda helped build a miasma of mistruth and misconception in the public eye, leading to the current cannabis climate.
How did the prohibition of cannabis play out in Australia?
The medicinal, ceremonial and industrial use of cannabis dates back thousands of years, and it was no different during the first half of the 19th century during which time many countries around the world, including Australia, utilised cannabis.
In fact, the first record of hemp seeds in Australia was with the first fleet, and they were marked as “for commerce” with the hope hemp could be produced commercially in the new colony .
In 1925 The League of Nations established the Geneva Convention, which was an international drug control agreement designed to ban the recreational use of opium, cocaine and other drugs. Cannabis was a last-minute addition.
In reaction to the treaty, Australia’s first Commonwealth Health Department director-general advised that opium was the only drug of concern, and there was no need to outlaw cannabis.
However, under international pressure, Australia began to implement drug laws that were consistent with the Geneva Convention and in 1928 Victoria was the first state to criminalise recreational cannabis use, closely followed by NSW in 1935 .
Interestingly, it wasn’t until the 1930’s when an article featured in an Australian news publication proclaimed that marijuana was a ‘New Drug That Maddens Victims’ that the cannabis hysteria peaked in Australia.
The article was subtitled ‘WARNING FROM AMERICA’; from these inflammatory headlines, it’s clear to see how international propaganda infiltrated the Australian consciousness and further maligned the public perception of cannabis within certain socio-political groups.
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since the days of slander and vilification, with medical research now supporting the use of cannabis as a therapeutic agent with the ability to treat a range of conditions.
Cannabis current state of play
Recreational cannabis use is still illegal. However, laws governing cannabis usage and possession vary and some states are blazing ahead of the rest regarding cannabis legislation; within South Australia, ACT and Northern Territory, possession of up to 50g of dried cannabis for personal use is decriminalised. That means it’s still illegal but not a criminal offence, and if caught, you still may face a fine or other disciplinary action.
Medical cannabis is also legally available by prescription in Australia, however, it’s very tightly regulated and not always easy to access, and for some, it can be very cost-prohibitive.
But what about CBD oil?
Currently, CBD oil can be legally prescribed by a doctor if they believe it is appropriate for a patient’s condition, and as of 1st Feb 2021, a low-dose CBD oil was made available as an over-the-counter medicine.
“The decision was made following an earlier TGA safety review of low dose CBD which indicated that the known adverse events of CBD at low doses were not serious.” States the TGA website.
At this stage, topical creams, medicinal vapes and gummies are not included in the approved over-the-counter medicines. It’s also unclear as to whether it’ll be a full-spectrum or isolate product. Isolates miss out on beneficial cannabinoids such as CBC, CBN and CBG.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any CBD products hitting the shelves any time soon. Manufacturer’s need to go through an application and approval process with the TGA for products to be permitted for sale.
At this time, it’s unclear exactly what data the TGA needs to see to approve a product. In the longest scenario, they may need to see the results of product-specific clinical trials before any approvals are granted, and this may take years.
Everything outside of the scope of the TGA approved products and medically prescribed cannabis will still be illegal.
Roadmap to cannabis legalisation in Australia
There’s a significant shift in sentiment within the government regarding cannabis decriminalisation with multiple MP’s speaking out to support drug policy reform.
Greens MP and drug law reform spokesperson Cate Faehrmann recently presented the Legalise Cannabis Bill, arguing that “if successful, this bill would bring NSW into line with the global trend towards decriminalising and legalising cannabis.”
Recently, Australian Labor Party politician Rose Jackson sat down for an exclusive chat with Hinterland co.
“a step we should take quite quickly is to decriminalise cannabis use, I think that is not a radical proposition anymore…for the moment personal use of cannabis should not be a criminal offence.” She said.
Check out the full interview with Rose in the video below.
Interestingly, new research from Roy Morgan confirms increasing numbers of Australians across all age groups want to legalise marijuana. Overall, 42% of Australians now support the legalisation of marijuana, up 9% points in just four years .
With all of the positive forward motion from Australian politicians and the surging public interest in CBD oil, there’s no question that cannabis will be legalised; it’s just a matter of how quickly the change in legislation can be pushed through the government.