Recently the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) (the Federal regulator for medicines and medical devices) delayed its decision to ban many legal hemp products, like cosmetics and topical ointments. This followed hemp industry advocates protesting against an earlier decision indicating the ban would be introduced in June 2017.
You may not even realise that some of your most trusted household products contain hemp. For example, hemp has been used in Australia in the following products for over forty years: cosmetics; body; hair; clothing; cleaning; building; pet food and numerous others.
Of course, both hemp and medicinal/recreational cannabis (marijuana) are strains of the cannabis sativa plant. However, hemp is bred and grown to ensure that it has a much lower, if not negligible, amount of the psychoactive element of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol -THC) — that is, it doesn’t get you high.
The TGA is considering changing the scheduling of cannabis and THC in the Poisons Standard. If the proposed changes go ahead they will effectively make several currently legal low-THC hemp products unlawful.√
I am an ardent supporter of medicinal cannabis, particularly for use in patients with epilepsy, chronic pain, and terminal illness. However, for medicinal cannabis to work for these conditions it must be grown and cultivated with the right ratio of THC and cannabidiol (the active ingredient in medicinal cannabis — CBD). This is a very precise science — it is certainly not as simple as going to the local ‘pot dealer’ and smoking whatever you get; medicinal cannabis products will generally be capsules, sprays, or drops.
The adoption of recent amendments made by the Federal Government to the Poisons Standards has paved the way for increased access to these medicinal cannabis products by Australian patients. Unfortunately, the amendments created ambiguity regarding the classification of a number of low-THC non-medicinal hemp products (like cosmetics and creams). The further proposed changes, those which were due to come into effect in June 2017, have been drafted in such a way that, if adopted, will make many of the currently-available products unavailable or illegal to sell.
This is ludicrous given that most of the hemp products already sold in Australia are intended for human topical use (e.g. as a cream) or for ingestion only by animals (e.g. as a pet food) and generally have such a low THC concentration that they would have little or no psychoactive effect if consumed by humans.
Whilst I applaud the Federal Government for helping to facilitate access to vital medicinal cannabis therapy this should not be done at the expense of access to safe, sustainable, low-risk hemp products. There has been no evidence presented that suggests such hemp products are unsafe and there were no external submissions calling for the banning of these lawful products.
Whether you’re a hemp retailer, wholesaler, sell your own hemp products, or buy hemp products, you may want to explore this further. For now, the TGA has deferred making a final decision until May, however more pressure needs to come from regular Australians who sell and use these products so that you may continue to do so.
If you would like further information on the legal situation around the decision, I would direct you to this blog by Mills Oakley partner, Dr Teresa Nicoletti.
The Poison Standard sets out the Federal Government’s recommended controls that the States and Territories should exercise over various drugs and poisons.