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Changes to over-the-counter CBD proposal

The Australian Government is currently considering the legal status of CBD. The Department of Health has issued guidelines for updating CBD regulations, as it looks into the relaxation of the scheduling of cannabidiol.At the moment in Australia, CBD is regulated under laws relating to drugs and poisons by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). It is categorized as a controlled substance. CBD is only available on prescription, prescribed either by the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or an authorized practitioner.

What is CBD?

CBD is extracted from the leaves, flowers and stalks of the hemp plant

Discovered in the 1940s, CBD or cannabidiol is one of over a hundred compounds found in the cannabis plant. It is extracted from the leaves, flowers and stalks of the hemp plant. Although CBD is taken from cannabis, it contains no psychoactive ingredients and does not produce any feelings of intoxication. The active ingredient in cannabis is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, but CBD purchased from a reputable source should contain 0% THC. The Health Department is considering making cannabidiol available over-the-counter as long as the dosage is limited. This may potentially open up a lucrative new market for CBD. There is a flourishing gray economy in CBD but no way of accessing it legally without a medical prescription.

What are the benefits of CBD?

Pro athletes are using CBD as a way to relieve the pain of sore muscles

Ongoing scientific research suggests that CBD offers a range of benefits for health and well-being. Popular with pro athletes, CBD is used to relieve pain from strained muscles and encourage a speedier recovery from injury. It is also believed to benefit those looking for relief from stress and anxiety. Tests suggest that CBD works with the body’s own receptors to provide a natural way of healing. Investigations are being carried out to look at further benefits from CBD. It may provide relief for conditions such as epilepsy and there is evidence to suggest that it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Proposed changes to the scheduling of CBD

CBD in Australia is categorized as a schedule 4 substance. This classifies it as a prescription only medicine because it is deemed to possess addictive properties. The proposal is that CBD would be reclassified as a schedule 3 substance. A prescription would therefore no longer be required if CBD were to be used for therapeutic purposes. However, the following conditions must be met:

  • The cannabidiol must either be natural, i.e. plant derived or, if synthetic, only contain the (-) CBD enantiomer
  • The daily recommended dose of cannabidiol must not exceed 60 mg
  • A maximum of 30 days’ supply must be sold at any one time
  • The total content of the cannabidiol preparation must consist of a cannabidiol content of 98% or more
  • Apart from CBD, any cannabinoids found in the product must be a natural compound of cannabis. In the total cannabinoid preparation, they must make up 2% or less
  • The product must only be used by adults aged 18 and over.

Public consultation on the proposal to amend the status of CBD in Australia ended on 22 May.

The next stage

After considering public submissions and the recommendations from the advisory committee, an interim decision is due to be published on 9 September 2020. At that point, further comments will be invited.

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