For Patients

An Introduction to Medicinal Cannabis

Illustration of a green cannabis leaf.

What is medicinal cannabis?

Medicinal cannabis is any product derived from the cannabis (sativa or indica) plant that is used as a medicine. Its history as a traditional medicine stretches back millennia and across the globe.

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Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

In 2016 Australia became one of the first forward-thinking countries to legalise medicinal cannabis, which shows real potential to help Australian patients. We’re still discovering a lot about its therapeutic potential.

Australians had access to medicinal cannabis until an international treaty listed it as a prohibited substance in 1925. Even though Australian health authorities advised that it was not a drug of serious concern, some state jurisdictions began restricting cannabis early in the last century.1

ECS diagram showing how endocannabinoids interact with brain receptors.

Medicinal cannabis partially binds to two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2, which affect both body and mind. Plant-based cannabinoids can help balance our endocannabinoid system and facilitate greater well-being.

The Endocannabinoid System

Medicinal cannabis works on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). We’re still building our understanding of this complex system, which researchers discovered only a few decades ago.

The ECS is connected to a network of receptors in our brain, central nervous system and peripheral organs and tissues. It has been shown to modulate and regulate memory, mood, appetite, pain and other immune system responses.

Your body naturally produces compounds called endocannabinoids that interact with these receptors to keep your body in balance. Plant-based cannabinoids such as THC and CBD interact with these exact same receptors, and their only known source is the cannabis plant.

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Medicinal Cannabis Methods and Formats

You can ingest medicinal cannabis in a variety of ways – through your skin, digestive system, sublingual glands and lungs – and each comes with its own unique characteristics and advantages.

Below are some of the differences between common medicinal cannabis ingestion methods. Speak with your doctor to determine what's best for you.

Illustration of dried cannabis leaf.

Inhalation via Vaporiser

Formats: Dried flower, vaporiser oil
Onset Time: 1 - 10 min2
Duration: 2 - 3 hours2
  • Medicine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs.
  • Rapid onset time for fast relief.
  • More difficult to achieve granular dosing.
Illustration of medical cannabis oral capsules.


Formats: Capsules, lozenges
Onset Time: 30 - 90 min2
Duration: 4 - 12 hours2
  • Medicine is absorbed through the digestive system.
  • Longer onset time with longer-lasting effects.
  • Offers highly accurate dosing.
Illustration of cannabis oil dropper.


Formats: Oils, sprays
Onset Time: 5 - 30 min3
Duration: 4 - 12 hours
  • Medicine is absorbed through the sublingual glands.
  • Moderate onset time with long-lasting effects.
  • Allows more granular dosing.

Topical / Transdermal

Formats: Balms, patches
Onset Time: Variable
Duration: Variable
  • Topical medicines work on the surface of the skin.
  • Onset time and duration can vary.
  • Provides localised relief.

Eligibility for Medicinal Cannabis

There are a number of conditions where patients have been approved for medicinal cannabis prescriptions by the TGA, however there is no approved or official list. Ultimately it is at your healthcare professional’s discretion to determine whether it’s the best treatment for you and if you meet the requirements for access.

In Australia, each state has different medicinal cannabis regulations. Read our FAQ pages for Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales to learn about the state's requirements.

The Patient Journey

Accessing Medicinal Cannabis

Kind medicinal cannabis products are available only with an approved prescription via the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme (SAS-B) or through an Authorised Prescriber (AP).

The Process

Illustration of patient visiting GP for advice on medicinal cannabis.
It’s best to see the GP who has been treating your existing condition/s to discuss whether medicinal cannabis is a suitable treatment option. From here, there are two typical pathways:
Your GP will apply for approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis for you under the Special Access Scheme (SAS-B); or
Your GP will refer you to a specialist cannabis doctor or clinic for further consultation.
Visit your GP to discuss medicinal cannabis as a treatment option.

(1) SAS-B Pathway

Your GP applies for permission to prescribe you medicinal cannabis.

Your GP will lodge a SAS-B application with the TGA to get approval to prescribe you medicinal cannabis. They will need to specify why they are recommending the use of medicinal cannabis and how they plan to monitor your treatment.

It normally takes around 2 days for a SAS-B request to be approved. Once approved, your GP will provide you with a treatment plan and prescription and discuss your options for getting it filled with you.

(2) Specialist Cannabis Doctor or Clinic Pathway

Your GP refers you to a specialist cannabis doctor or clinic.

Your GP will provide a referral, including your medical history, to a doctor or clinic that specialises in medicinal cannabis. You and the doctor will discuss your medical condition/s and history and he or she will determine if medicinal cannabis is right for you.

If the doctor is an Authorised Prescriber (AP), he or she can provide a prescription immediately, otherwise it will involve obtaining SAS-B approval (takes around 2 days). Once approved, the doctor will provide you with a treatment plan and prescription and discuss your options for getting it filled with you.

Illustration of mobile phone.

Call your pharmacy to discuss your prescription

Pharmacies have to order in medicinal cannabis so we recommend you call them to place an order for your medication.

Drawing of dried cannabis leaf.

Begin treatment, following the dosage guidance provided to you.

It's important to understand how to use medicinal cannabis before starting treatment. Read through the Consumer Medical Information (CMI) and run through any questions you have with your doctor or pharmacist. Follow the dosage and titration guidelines and always seek immediate medical assistance if you experience severe or unexpected side effects.

Illustration of a specialist cannabis doctor.

Check in with your GP or specialist cannabis doctor and continue your medicinal cannabis education.

Your GP or specialist cannabis doctor will be required to check-in with you to track your treatment and adjust your plan if necessary. The science behind medicinal cannabis is continually evolving; subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest research and Kind Medical product information.

Illustration of a hand reaching out to a leafy plant.

Further Information

To learn more, visit out our Patient FAQs page.