CBD oil is officially legal to buy over the counter in Australia, meaning we’re catching up to the rest of the world in recognising the medical benefits of this drug. Studies have shown it’s effective in treating everything from chronic pain to anxiety – but it’s not available in pharmacies just yet.

Following a “monumental” move by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), low dose cannabidiol (CBD) became legal to purchase over the counter on February 1.

It means that Aussies no longer need a referral, special approval or prescription to use low doses of the drug, which can be a lengthy process.

However, there’s a catch: no CBD products are yet approved for sale. It’s a process that takes millions of dollars and many months to get going.

“It’s legal to buy it, but nothing is registered to be legal to sell over the counter yet,” Dr. Ben Jansen, clinical director and founder of Cannabis Doctors Australia (CDA Clinics), told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“You need to register with the ARTG [Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods], spend a heap of money, do your product run, prove it works exactly the same each time, get your data, and then get it assessed.”

Whichever manufacturer gets there first will have a market advantage of about $200 million per year, so they’re all racing for that first TGA approval.

The lack of available products right now shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is a huge fkn deal.

It’s the biggest step forward since CBD was first legalised in 2016. Back then, it took a mountain of paperwork just to get approval for one patient to use. (Jansen told PTV his first patient found the process so expensive and complex in Australia, he moved to California instead.)

Soon, you’ll be able to pop in and chat to your local pharmacist about getting a daily dose of 150gm. Huge.

What is CBD?

Most importantly, it’s NOT weed. It will not get you high. It’s a chemical compound extracted from weed (okay, technically speaking, from the marijuana plant).

Unlike THC, there’s no psychotropic properties in CBD. You also shouldn’t confuse it for hemp seed oil, which is great for Omega-3, but doesn’t have CBD or THC properties at a medicinal level. In other words, it’ll do diddly squat.

What is CBD used to treat?

It’s being used to treat everything from cancer symptoms to chronic pain, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and insomnia. Like all medications, there are varying doses depending on the severity of the causes you’re trying to treat, and larger doses – which might be needed by people with cancer or epilepsy – will still require a prescription.

What are the side effects?

Lower doses, like what you’ll be able to buy over-the-counter, probably won’t have any side effects, but sedation is the most common, according to CDA Clinics.

Higher doses could include nausea, dry mouth and diarrhoea, so obviously consult with your doctor first. There’s also a risk of misdiagnosis when it comes to higher doses, Jansen said, which is partly why it will still require a prescription. You need to make sure that pain you’re masking isn’t cancer, ya know?

So what will change once CBD oil products are approved for over-the-counter use?

In short: it will become a lot less of a pain in the ass to access them. You’ll still get a pharmacist checking it won’t mix badly with any medications you’re currently on, but you won’t need to visit a doctor and be approved for a low dose.

Also: it’s getting cheaper by the day. A couple years ago, you could be paying several hundred dollars, but an influx of products in 2017 brought the price down by close to 50% in 12 months.

Jansen said recently Australian products were beating the UK on price, which is both great for anyone who relies on these products and a nice win over the motherland.

So what now?

We wait, pretty much. Unless you need a script right this second, in which case, can I recommend your GP?

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