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Cannabis use

How is cannabis used in Australia and what are the benefits?

Many people use cannabis, whether for self-medicating illness or recreation. Due to its illegal status, cannabis use and benefits are hard to track. Our research seeks to understand patterns and benefits of use.

Cannabis was classified for many decades as an illicit drug and illegal substance due to the intoxicating effects of one of the compounds it contains, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Research into medicinal cannabis, and its more than 100 other non-psychoactive compounds, has been inhibited as a result of these laws.

In 2016 however, the Australian Government moved to legalise medicinal cannabis. This change has enabled scientists and researchers at the Lambert Initiative to initiate vital research into the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids; research which may change the lives of millions of people living with chronic diseases and conditions.

From benefitting children with severe, drug resistant epilepsy to reducing pain, anxiety and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the uses for medicinal cannabis are potentially limitless. Our researchers are currently conducting and planning a variety of studies on the potential of novel cannabinoids for treating many different conditions. These include paediatric epilepsy; cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy; dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; addictions; anxiety; sleep and mood disorders; Parkinson’s disease; cerebral palsy and more.

According to official surveys, cannabis is the most widely used 'illicit' drug in Australia. More than 10% of adult Australians have used cannabis in the last 12 months with an estimated 750,000 Australians using cannabis every week. Approximately 300,000 use cannabis on a daily basis.

In 2016, the federal government passed laws to legalise medicinal cannabis use for patients with painful and chronic conditions, with products imported from overseas, as well as allowing the cultivation of medicinal cannabis in Australia.

In 2017, the government introduced additional legislation to boost local supply and streamline importation laws, giving the green light for approved companies to legally import, store and sell medicinal cannabis until domestic production meets local needs. Under the new changes, approved importers are able to buy the medication from overseas and store it in Australia for immediate distribution, with imports fast-tracked while local supplies are grown.

In order to access medicinal cannabis, patients must use the Special Access Scheme (SAS-B) or an Authorised Prescriber.

Read more on how to get medicinal cannabis.