Here's How I Got Access To Legal CBD Oil In Australia

On March 28, I tweeted that I was interested in trying CBD Oil for my eight-and-a-half year chronic pain problem.

After trying Charlotte’s Web oil in 2016 -- to immense cost and little help -- I was once again facing few options and losing hope that I’d be able to find any relief from my pain.

More recently, I've been taking Panadeine Forte and Valium to help ease the pain, but have been concerned about the drugs' addictive qualities, as well as the side effects. Also, they just weren't helping my pain the way they used to, whether that be because I was building a tolerance to them, or because my pain condition was getting worse. Either way, I figured I should make sure I’d explored all my options before going back to my doctor and discussing the option of heavier duty, more addictive painkillers.

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Originally, I figured I would just put a call out to a few CBD brands and trial them for the article, but soon enough, I found myself down a rabbit hole of red tape.

From the many companies I reached out to, one of the only ones I heard back from was The Cannabis Co., an Australian company who make hemp products. 

After learning a bit more about my case, they explained to me that I would need a prescription to access CBD products with THC. The Customer Experience Manager for The Cannabis Co., wrote:

Access to CBD products and medical cannabis in general in Australia is legal if you have a current script approved by the government. There is a process and there is no guarantee that they will approve it. This application is completed under an access pathway called Special Access Scheme and we can help facilitate the process for you and put you in touch with doctors who are willing to discuss your options.

So, after learning that I needed a script in order for it to be legal, I thought back to the Charlotte’s Web oil that I’d tried a few years ago. Had that been legal? Did I accidentally break the law?

Turns out, I didn’t. Having since rebranded as Hemp Oil, it appears that the oil I'd purchased was still legal under Australian laws, because it didn't have THC in it. Great!

This was where the rabbit hole began, though.

Now, I’m not one of those “my Google search is the same as your medical degree types”, by any means, but I will say this: when you've had a chronic pain condition for years, and there are no solutions being offered, you do end up sinking hours into searching online for anything and everything that could help you manage your symptoms and conditions. 

While searching for information about the Subscriber Access Scheme, I went round and round, further down the rabbit hole as I tried to figure out if I would even qualify for it. From everything I could see, the only way a patient could legally access medical marijuana was if they were a child with epilepsy, or their condition was terminal. For people with chronic pain, there was basically no information to be found.

READ MORE: The Neverending Battle To Accept The Chronic-ness Of Chronic Pain

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READ MORE: What I Wish I'd Known About Chronic Pain Before I Got Sick

READ MORE: Can We Legalise Marijuana So I Don't Become Another Opioid Statistic, Please?

The Cannabis Co. soon looped me in with Blake Lennox of Tetra Health, who helps people navigate Australia’s very hectic laws around CBD. Calling me on the phone shortly after reading about my condition, he told me he was very confident that my application would be approved by the government, and explained that if my GP wouldn't prescribe the oil for me, he could then put me in touch with one of their practitioners who would.

For a yearly fee of $300 (once your application is approved!), Blake assists both patients and doctors with applications to the Special Access Scheme, and offers over-the-phone advice and support around dosages once patients have gotten their CBD oil.

The process of getting this all sorted involved filling out 10 different questionnaires, which gave Tetra Health the necessary information to fill out all the government applications with. Then Blake liased with my doctor, who agreed to prescribe the product he recommended.

Although there were some delays -- a little over a week -- in getting approval for my application, once it came through, my doctor wrote the script, it went to a pharmacy in Bondi, and then I called them and arranged for it to be delivered that afternoon. 

Blake called me and talked me through a first week plan, starting with a low dose and explaining how I could increase the dosage over the week if necessary. He also sent through a patient journal as well as a treatment plan -- basically a written version of everything we'd spoken about.

It's now been a week, and Blake called me this morning to check in. So far, I've found that the CBD oil has roughly the same effect as the Panadeine Forte and Valium, both in terms of helping with pain, and also with drowsiness. We're still trying to figure out a dose that will be effective without too many side effects, but that's all a part of the process, as there's no one-size-fits-all approach to medication, whether it be CBD or any other type of long-term medication. If I have to switch products, we'll have to fill out another application and get my doctor to write another script. There's also the issue of cost -- for the 50ml bottle pictured above, I forked out $320 (with delivery).

Although accessing legal CBD oil in Australia is incredibly complicated and expensive at the moment, I'm hoping that it will be an effective source of pain relief for me going forward. And of course, this is just my own experience and my own journey to navigate chronic pain. If you're interested in accessing legal CBD oil in Australia, talk to your GP about your options and whether it would be right for you.