Why Can’t You Buy CBD Oil Over-the-counter?

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Aug 28, 2022
Last updated:
May 2, 2024

In the early part of 2021, it became legal to buy over-the-counter CBD oil in Australia. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find it for sale at your local chemist or anywhere else.

So why can’t you buy CBD oil in Australia yet without a prescription?

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is a substance extracted from hemp and/or cannabis plants that contains cannabidiol (CBD). This is one of the main compounds found in cannabis and hemp. Unlike the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is also found in the plant, CBD doesn’t cause the high that people experience when they ingest or smoke marijuana flower.

CBD oil interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system and may be prescribed to treat various medical conditions and chronic symptoms. Research tells us again and again that CBD is well tolerated and has a favourable safety profile.

Is Over-the-Counter CBD Oil Legal in Australia?

At the moment, over-the-counter CBD oil is technically legal in Australia, thanks to the blessing of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). But as mentioned, you can’t purchase it from a pharmacy or anywhere else (via The Conversation). This is due to several factors.

For one, if a company wants to sell a medicine in Australia, sufficient data has to be available to the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). They need this information to certify a product’s safety, efficacy, and overall quality. This, of course, applies to CBD oil.

This research is too costly for all but the largest pharmaceutical companies. And for these larger companies, there may not be the financial motivation to do the required research compared to other medicines.

This is why many experts weren’t happy with the TGA’s decision to make it legal to sell cannabis over-the-counter in Australia.

At the moment, the only product that is listed on the ARTG is a pharmaceutical grade cannabis-derived formula for children with epilepsy.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for non-prescription CBD oil in Australia.

How to Legally Buy CBD Oil in Australia

If you’re interested in finding out if you could benefit from CBD oil, fear not: There is a legal method for doing so. CBD oil falls under the umbrella of medical cannabis, which means you may be eligible to get a prescription from a medical cannabis clinic or your local GP.

What’s the Difference Between Prescription CBD Oil and Over-the-Counter CBD Oil?

The CBD oil in Australia that’s currently available by prescription is different from what could eventually hit shelves at the pharmacy.

For starters, over-the-counter CBD oil will have to be 98 percent pure CBD. If THC is present, it has to be only 1 percent or less. Prescription CBD oil may contain higher levels of THC, which will vary depending on the recommendation of your prescribing doctor.

Secondly, any of the potential over the-counter products that may become available in the future will legally only be as CBD tinctures with the traditional oral dropper. This means you’ll only have the option to take it orally.

This differs from the current prescription CBD options which are much more varied, including sprays, capsules, topicals, and more.

Thirdly, the TGA has only legalised low dose CBD oil, with dose sizes of up to a maximum of 150 mg/day. Low dose CBD oil with low daily maximums won’t be applicable for every condition.

Once over-the-counter CBD oil has been made available, patients will still need approval by a pharmacist to purchase it, as opposed to a doctor for medical cannabis. Australians will have to be 18 or older to buy over-the-counter CBD oil in Australia.

The good news is that  patients can access higher doses of CBD oil through a prescription. Should a doctor determine a different dose size or formula would benefit the patient, there are a wide array of legally available prescription CBD products available.

The Future of CBD Oil in Australia

The current state of over-the-counter CBD oil can best be described as in limbo. It’s technically legal, but not yet available. Should robust clinical trials complete and the ARTG issue an approval, Australians may gain access to non-prescription CBD oil — but this is likely several years away at best.

For now, if you are interested in finding out more about CBD oil and how it may work for your medical condition, you should book a consultation with a doctor at a medical cannabis clinic or your local GP.