Can You Carry Prescribed Medical Cannabis From Overseas Into NSW?

January 18, 2024 · Vice

For some, we live in a world where blazing it as soon as the clock strikes 4:20 is a means of mental and spiritual healing – a puff of green that transports you into a state of tranquillity.

But for others, cannabis use isn’t just about the 4/20 caricature or a personality trait that your on-again, off-again fling parades instead of going to therapy.

There’s a lot more intention to it.

Over the years, more and more practitioners have turned to medical cannabis to treat or ease physical and mental pain for patients. It’s proven to treat numerous symptoms of medical conditions, like chemotherapy nausea, multiple sclerosis, anxiety and sleep disorders. It’s just one (medicinal and legal) reason medical cannabis prescriptions have risen in popularity.

2023 report in the Sydney Morning Herald found that more than 1 million prescriptions for medical cannabis had been issued in Australia since its legalisation in 2016. Senior research associate, Llewellyn Mills, went so far as to say it is “more acceptable now to use medical cannabis on a societal level”. 

And it is. 

The mysterious, rebellious, hidden agenda behind cannabis use is disappearing (and in many countries has already disappeared). The novelty behind the bloodshot, glassy-eyed stoner is no longer the only representation of cannabis users, and the more researchers delve into the medical effects of the drug, the more it becomes a regulated asset to pain treatment.

Despite cannabis being a prescribed medication for many, the legal procedure of carrying and travelling with it in NSW is foggy.

The federal law in Australia allows for a traveller or traveller’s carer to carry up to 3 months of a medical or therapeutic good for medical treatment into the country, as per the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s traveller’s exemption.

However, the NSW state law says otherwise.

Specialist in Australian medicinal cannabis licences, Cate Hall, posted to LinkedIn in early January about the general uncertainty surrounding NSW Health’s blanket “no” on their website FAQ when it comes to carrying cannabis that was prescribed by a doctor from overseas.

“I was advised that to be given an answer, I would need to outline exactly what medicinal cannabis product was being brought in, in what quantities, and show a copy of the prescription. I said that if I needed to do all of that, the answer to the question in the FAQ didn’t sound like it was a ‘no’,” she wrote.

“Sydney is a major entry point into Australia, so are all of these overseas travellers who relied on the traveller’s exemption to carry their legally prescribed and supplied medicinal cannabis breaking NSW law?”

If your brain is hurting from the contradictions and uncertainty around what is “legal” and what isn’t, we get it. The lines are blurry and for some reason, government websites that we’re supposed to rely on can’t even provide a solid answer. Obviously.

So here’s the answer for you.

Can you carry medical cannabis prescribed by an overseas doctor into NSW?

According to NSW Health’s website FAQ, no. This is the state law.

When asked for a statement, a spokesperson from NSW Health told VICE that possession of cannabis in NSW which has not been obtained legally under NSW law is classified as an offence.

“NSW Health recommends people who have cannabis medication carry a prescription or letter from their doctor describing the cannabis medicine in use and the quantity prescribed, as well as keeping the medicine in its original packaging and labelling as dispensed as a medicine by a pharmacist.”

So while the state and federal laws differ, the final answer is: if you are travelling from the US, carrying prescribed medical California kush, it will be treated as an offence and you will not be able to bring it into NSW. 

Once again, this is another case of NSW living up to its notorious reputation of restriction-tightening, this time, on medical bud.

So to simply reiterate, according to state law (and a NSW Health spokesperson), you cannot bring prescribed medical cannabis from overseas into NSW.

If you were hoping to chuff on some of your prescribed White Widow, and gaze at the glistening Sydney harbour – it’ll have to remain a distant dream. (Full Story)

In categories:International Tourism Travel
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