More than 50 countries around the world have legalized some form of medical cannabis while six countries have allowed the recreational use of cannabis by adults. And while these territories have made inroads into the massive global cannabis market, most people in jurisdictions with legal weed still get their supply from the illicit market. One such jurisdiction is Australia. Australia legalized medical cannabis back in 2016 when the government created a system where doctors could prescribe the substance to treat various conditions. However, a recent study has found that only 3% of Australians using medical cannabis access it through the government’s regulated program.
According to the study, which was published in the Harm Reduction Journal, the cost of legal marijuana and lack of education around the program has kept illegal dealers in business. It compared two instances of the voluntary Cannabis as Medicine Survey, the first just before medical cannabis was legalized in 2016 and the second two years later. Researchers compared data from 1,388 respondents to get a better idea of how the introduction of a regulated market changed how Australians accessed medical cannabis, and they found that nothing much had changed.
Over 90% of the respondents said the regulated framework doesn’t work well enough, and a third of the respondents said that legal weed is insanely expensive. Cannabis is not covered or subsidized by the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, so patients have to pay between AUS$5 to $15 per day out of pocket, the study reported. Almost 50% of those surveyed said the cost of legal medical weed “placed a significant strain on their finances.”
“In many respects, little has changed in the two years since cannabis was legalized for medicinal purposes in Australia: users are still largely accessing illicit cannabis, self-medicating a similar range of health conditions (chronic pain, mental health and sleep problems), with similar perceived levels of effectiveness, side effects, social and legal issues reported.” However, the study found that Australians are in support of improving the country’s regulated cannabis program, with 90% of the respondents saying that cannabis should be part of the county’s routine health care and 70% saying the government should subsidize medical cannabis.
“Until medical cannabis products are licensed as medicines with the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), and subsidized under the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, it seems likely that the cost of unlicensed cannabis-based products will continue to force many people to source their cannabis illicitly, especially those on low incomes.”
Analysts say cannabis companies in North America, such as Sugarmade, Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD), are likely to draw parallels between the reasons why Australians are largely sourcing medical marijuana from the black market and why the illicit marijuana market still persists in North American jurisdictions with regulated cannabis programs.
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