The sale of low-dose cannabidiol preparations over the counter at Australian pharmacies has been allowed since early this year. But you won't find any at your local chemist and there is a reason for that CBD is legal in both Australia and New Zealand, but illegal in other parts of the region. Here’s a list of CBD brands that ship down under.
analysis : It’s legal to buy over-the-counter cannabis in Australia — so why doesn’t my chemist sell it?
Since early 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has allowed the sale of low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) preparations over the counter at Australian pharmacies. But you won’t find any at your local chemist.
The situation is different overseas. In the United States, although not approved at a federal level, it is possible to buy over-the-counter products such as sweets containing CBD in several states. In the United Kingdom, low-dose CBD oil can be sold as a dietary supplement, but not a medicine.
CBD is a chemical found in the cannabis plant. Like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), also found in cannabis, it does have psychoactive effects. It can make people sleepy and affect the brain’s electrical signals. Unlike THC, it won’t get you “high” or induce other psychotic effects.
Getting a medicine to market in Australia, even a non-prescription one, requires extensive research and investment. It might be too much for small cannabis producers to take on, and a turn-off for big pharmaceutical companies if that investment is at the expense of upcoming blockbuster drugs. And the process might not be worth it if research shows the benefit of cannabinoids is small compared with other therapies.
Getting a medicine to market in Australia, even a non-prescription one, requires extensive research and investment. ( Unsplash: Jan Zwarthoed )
Setting high standards
In Australia, it became legal to purchase products containing low-dose (less than 150 milligrams a day) CBD over the counter after the TGA down-scheduled the substance from a Schedule 4 (prescription medicine) to a Schedule 3 (pharmacist-only medicine).
But so far, no product containing CBD has been approved by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), which is a requirement of pharmacist sale. ARTG approval means regulatory quality data on its safety, contaminants, microbial content, shelf-life and efficacy meet the TGA standards and is known and tested in regulatory grade laboratories.
What’s the evidence for medical marijuana?
Advocates say medicinal cannabis offers effective relief when other treatments are failing. But Australian guidelines say there’s limited evidence to support its use.
The time and financial costs for drug development to meet the ARTG standards can be significant. Aspiring cannabis companies may not anticipate the difference between selling a product like cannabidiol compared to other products such as toys or clothing.
Expert clinical groups including physicians, psychiatrists, the Australian Medical Association and Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists opposed the down-scheduling, citing the lack safety data, lack of efficacy data, issues with product labelling and the potential for interactions with prescription medicines.
In fact there is only one regulatory-grade CBD product approved for use in Australia, Epidyolex, which is approved for treating forms of severe childhood epilepsy, and only available on prescription. (A drug called Sativex is also approved that contains both CBD and THC.)
From a patient-safety perspective, regulating formulation and ensuring safety and quality data has met the TGA bar is imperative. Proving effectiveness is reasonable too. By down-scheduling and yet insisting on ARTG approval, the use of illicit CBD products may decrease – a win for population health if it transpires.
For industry, the TGA’s decision to down-schedule but require ARTG approval could be seen as helpful to ensure quality and restrict supply. It has been estimated there is a potential for hundreds of millions of dollars of market in Australia and crop development is already underway. So, major investment into drug development by a CBD company could be financially rewarding, as long as the standards are met.
What could low-dose CBD be good for?
There are currently no recommended medical uses for low-dose CBD. Clinical trial data suggests a benefit of higher dose CBD for some children with a severe form of epilepsy who haven’t responded to other drugs. But it’s not clear whether the benefits could also have been explained by the fact patients also took Valium. And there were significant side effects reported that were higher in the CBD group.
Here’s a first look at how many Australians are taking medicinal cannabis
Christian Read insists while medical medicinal cannabis can’t cure him of the pain he experiences, it grants him some relief.
With some high-profile proponents including basketballer Lauren Jackson, there are increasing calls in many countries for patients, particularly those with chronic pain, to legally use cannabinoids. There are also claims low-dose CBD could help people with anxiety, insomnia, arthritis or inflammatory issues, but this has yet to be backed by research into effectiveness or safety.
We don’t know whether any cannabis business has applied to the TGA to have its product registered and been rejected due to failures on the safety, efficacy and quality side.
However, due to cannabis’ complicated extraction, synthesis, combinations, drug interactions and side-effects profile, it seems unlikely many non-medical companies would have the facilities, systems and people available in Australia to be able to achieve the required standards.
So far, big pharmaceutical companies have not shown significant interest in low-dose CBD. They may not be sure low-dose drugs will be recommended by doctors, or be waiting for more research. They may not judge CBD to be a potential blockbuster compared with other therapies in their pipelines.
There are some local producers exporting cannabis and embarking on clinical trials. Federal health minister Greg Hunt has said Australia is “poised to become a recognised leader in the global supply of the highest-quality medicinal cannabis products”.
Coming to a chemist soon?
If we are using cannabis as a medicine, we should make the same demands we do of other medicines to protect patient safety. This requires good manufacturing practice, good laboratory standards of measurement, appropriate labelling, and sufficient clinical information for informed patient consent.
Medical professionals should know what they are prescribing or recommending and be able to refer to dose-response data for each compound. They need to know the pharmacology and the drug interactions, the evidence for their use in specific conditions and any negative effects.
They also need to understand the legal, professional and regulatory obligations placed on prescribers and dispensers. If products are being bought at the chemist, they may interfere with other drugs or foods. Companies who want to sell such products in Australia will need to focus on bringing their drug development into line with regulatory standards. Time will tell how many can do that.
Jennifer Martin is Professor of Medicine and Chair of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Newcastle and Catherine Lucas is a clinical pharmacologist, also at the University of Newcastle. This piece first appeared on The Conversation.
Posted 13 Dec 2021 13 Dec 2021 Mon 13 Dec 2021 at 7:30pm , updated 14 Dec 2021 14 Dec 2021 Tue 14 Dec 2021 at 5:23am
Guide to Buying CBD in Australasia For 2021
CBD is legal in both Australia and New Zealand, but illegal in other parts of the region.
Finding CBD products can be challenging for Australians & New Zealanders — here are three top brands that ship nearby.
Australia is expected to become one of the leading cannabis growers, and New Zealand is on the verge of full cannabis legalization.
Unfortunately, CBD is still controlled as a prescription-only substance.
Don’t worry — new laws are expected to be enacted soon.
This article will introduce you to the current laws on CBD and the upcoming changes in Australia and New Zealand. We’ll also share a list of companies that ship to New Zealand and Australia and tips on how to use a mail forwarding service and get your CBD delivered at your doorstep.
Table of Contents
- The Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana in Australasia
- 1. Marijuana
- 2. Hemp
CBD Laws in Australasian Countries
CBD Laws & Buyer’s Guides | Select Your Country
Medical Use Only
Medical Use Only
Papua New Guinea
Summary: Buying CBD in Australasia
- CBD products are hard to find in Australasia — you’ll need a medical license
- Most people in Australia and New Zealand order CBD oils from Premium Jane Australia and have it shipped to their home (free shipping offered on most orders)
- CBD is legal only for medical use
- Australian health authorities permit CBD if the content of other cannabinoids (including THC) doesn’t exceed 2%
- In New Zealand, CBD is legal if the content of THC and other psychoactive substances doesn’t exceed 2%
- In Australia, CBD falls under the medical cannabis program
- Importing CBD is prohibited in Australia
- New Zealand allows the import of CBD with a medical prescription
- Cannabis in Papua New Guinea is illegal
- CBD laws in Australasia are shifting towards friendlier regulations
CBD Companies That Ship to Australia & New Zealand
A Brief History of Cannabis Laws in Australasia
Although Australia and New Zealand were both British colonies, they have a different cannabis history.
Unlike Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea doesn’t have a remarkable history of cannabis use. Cannabis was introduced to Papua New Guinea in the late 60s by Australian and American expatriates.
Cannabis was first introduced to Australia in 1788 when the British First Fleet brought hemp seeds to initiate hemp cultivation. The British naval power needed hemp primarily for cordage and sails.
For more than 150 years, the Australian government encouraged farmers to cultivate hemp with subsidies and land. British colonizers also introduced the medicinal use of cannabis in Australia in the 19th century. Australians used cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes.
In the 1920s, marijuana use increased throughout the West. Soon, the 1930s became the years of anti-marijuana propaganda led by the US government.
The aggressive reefer-madness campaign progressed with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which restricted cannabis sales with high taxes.
As a cannabis plant, hemp also fell under the act. Influenced by American politics and regulations, the Australian government banned cannabis (some states banned the import of cannabis even before the US did).
In New Zealand, hemp wasn’t a popular crop, as another plant was widely used for its fiber quality — harakeke. Known as the New Zealand flax, harakeke replaced hemp. However, hemp in New Zealand was used as a remedy and an insect repellent plant.
In 1941, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research planted hemp as a trial crop for fiber. A few years later, New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture planted four hectares of hemp. In 1948, cannabis’ psychoactive properties were discovered, and the government stopped all trials.
In Australia, cannabis cultivation became legal for medical and scientific purposes in 2016. New Zealand legalized government-licensed hemp cultivation in 2006 after the hemp lobby advocated for its legalization for more than a decade. As of December 2018, terminally ill patients can have access to medicinal cannabis.
The Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana in Australasia
Marijuana is any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.35% THC — the main cannabinoid known for its psychoactive effects related to the recreational use of the plant.
Unlike marijuana, hemp plants don’t contain high amounts of THC. In New Zealand, hemp includes varieties of Cannabis sativa that have a THC content below 0.35%.
Some Australian states have a higher threshold for THC content, varying from 0.35% to 1%.
Is CBD Legal in Australasia?
CBD in Australasia is restricted. While the cannabinoid is available only via prescription in both countries, the regulations around its use and import are slightly different.
Verdict: Legal for Medical Use
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates CBD as a controlled substance under poison and drug laws. The cannabinoid falls under the medical cannabis program.
CBD can be obtained via an authorized prescriber or the Special Access Scheme (SAS). In some cases, patients can acquire CBD through clinical trials.
In Australia, CBD is legal as long as the content of other cannabinoids (including THC) in the CBD product doesn’t exceed 2%.
2. New Zealand
Verdict: Legal for Medical Use
In New Zealand, CBD is classified as a prescription medicine under the Medicines Act 1981. Access to CBD is possible only by prescription from an authorized prescriber. Patients are allowed to import CBD, but the product must fall within legal THC limits.
Under New Zealand’s law, the content of tetrahydrocannabinol and other psychoactive substances mustn’t exceed 2%. The Ministry of Health notes that medicinal cannabis products like Sativex are not considered CBD products.
3. Papua New Guinea
Cannabis — called spak brus among the indigenous people — in Papua New Guinea is illegal and any possession related to it is punishable.
How to Buy CBD Products in Australasia
CBD is available in Australia & New Zealand through a special access scheme (medical cannabis program), but illegal in Papua New Guinea.
The market here is very new, and licensed pharmacies have limited product choices.
In fact, it’s very difficult to find CBD products here. There are very few companies operating locally due to steep restrictions by local government. The vast majority of CBD brands are located in the United States and Europe — and only a small fraction will ship overseas to Australia in fear of having their orders confiscated at the border.
We’ve found the best options for people living in Australia and New Zealand is Endoca, followed by Hemp Bombs or BlueBird Botanicals. All three companies will ship to Australia (some free of charge). We haven’t been able to find any reports of CBD products being stopped at the border and Endoca claims to have had no problems shipping to the region (hence the free shipping offer).
Health authorities and other regulatory bodies are under constant pressure to ease access to CBD. New Zealand’s government announced a nationwide referendum for cannabis legalization in 2020.
In September 2019, the Australian Capital Territory legalized the recreational use of cannabis. The progressive changes point out that laws around CBD will become even friendlier on CBD companies hoping to operate in the region.
If you live in New Zealand, you can import CBD (up to 3 months supply), with or without a prescription from an authorized prescriber. In Australia, importing CBD is prohibited, unless the product has valid import permission.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand doesn’t require an import license for CBD products. Importing CBD that doesn’t fall under New Zealand’s CBD product definition is illegal.
Keep yourself informed on the current changes in local regulations. Once governments enact friendlier CBD laws, you’ll be able to buy CBD products online from countries with highly developed CBD markets.
Pros & Cons of Buying CBD Online in Australasia
- You can choose from thousands of different CBD products
- Online stores are cheaper
- You’ll get your CBD delivered to your door
- You can compare products and read customer reviews
- Your CBD product can be seized
- You might need to pay for a mail forwarding service
If you want to buy CBD from an online store, you might need to use a mail forwarding service. Some companies don’t ship CBD to your country, and your mail will have to be forwarded to arrive at your address.
How Mail Forwarding Works
You can use a mail forwarding service when you want to purchase CBD from a store that won’t ship to your country.
For example, if you want to buy CBD from the US or Europe, but the company doesn’t ship to where you live, you can register at Shipito.
The mail forwarding company provides you with a local address you will use to place your CBD order.
When the product arrives to the mail forwarding service, staff will change the stamps and forward the package to your home address.
Mail forwarding companies offer concierge services, which means that you can provide them with product details, and they’ll shop for you.
Fees and costs vary from one mail forwarding company to another. As we’ve already mentioned Shipito, here are its mail forwarding rates:
Tier of Service Sign Up Fee Annual Fee Average Shipping Fee Free Membership (If you only need the service every once in a while) $3 USD $0 $30 USD Premium Membership (If you order CBD often and want protection on your packages) $2 USD $60 $30 USD
Their concierge service costs are as follows:
$8.50 fee + 4.3% processing + 8% commission.
NOTE: Although the Australian Capital Territory legalized recreational cannabis, laws around CBD haven’t changed yet.
A mail forwarding service can help you get your CBD to your door, but the product can still end up seized at customs, and you’d put yourself in trouble.
If you live in New Zealand and want to buy medical CBD, read the product’s content before you order it to make sure it’s legal for import.
The Future of CBD in Australasia
Australasia has traditionally been very unaccepting of CBD, but things are changing.
The Australasian authorities are aware that they need to reshape their regulations in order to follow the international scientific and economic cannabis development.
Australia is easing its laws — the legalization of recreational cannabis in the Australian Capital Territory is the basis for new CBD laws. New Zealand will likely change its restrictive laws after the cannabis legalization referendum in 2020.
According to Emerald Plants Health Source, Australia will become the “envy of the global market and the gateway to Asia,” thanks to its highly developed agricultural and crop safety management systems.
Many parts of Australia have a suitable climate and plenty of available land for cannabis cultivation. The long history of cannabis use would only contribute to a well-developed cannabis and CBD market.
Considering everything, it’s likely that CBD in Australia and New Zealand will soon fall under friendlier regulations.
Final Thoughts: Buying CBD in Australasia
You can buy CBD if you live in New Zealand or Australia only with a prescription from an authorized prescriber, or by registering under the cannabis medical system.
In Papua New Guinea, there is no legal option to buy CBD — the country prohibits any cannabis possession and use, meaning you would be breaking the law if you try to import a CBD product.
If you live in New Zealand and want to buy CBD from a foreign country, you can use a mail forwarding service to get the product shipped at your address. When you make your order, make sure your product contains at least 98% CBD. Your best option is to shop for CBD isolate products (THC-free).
Australian authorities currently prohibit CBD import.
Laws are changing quickly in the Australasian region, meaning you’ll soon be able to buy CBD products online from foreign countries and, hopefully, from local stores.