Medical Cannabis and the Holidays: Tips for Patients

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Dec 8, 2023
Last updated:
May 2, 2024

Long, sun-soaked days spent at the beach, devouring a tray of mangoes with family and friends, the smell of a sizzling BBQ — there’s nothing quite like the holidays in Australia.

But whether you’re travelling home or facing a last-minute shopping rush, the holidays show us that a little planning goes a long way. If medical cannabis is part of your treatment, here are some tips to ensure you make the most out of the holiday period.

Ordering Medical Cannabis For the Holidays

If there’s one thing the holidays are synonymous with, it’s giving gifts – and in many cases watching the postal tracking like a hawk, just hoping that your present arrives in time for Christmas.

Ordering your medical cannabis (if you’re a patient with an online clinic) is no different. So, if it’s almost time for a refill of your prescription, try to order at least 10 days before Christmas. This will ensure your medication has enough time to be processed, dispensed by the pharmacy and then posted to you. A little bit of planning ahead means you can continue treatment while enjoying the festivities and a well-deserved slice of pavlova.

Travelling With Medical Cannabis In Australia

As a patient, travelling domestically with medical cannabis is legal, so long as you carry your medication in its original packaging and can provide proof of identification.

Even so, it’s advisable to bring a letter from your doctor outlining the details of your prescription. Keep your medication in its original packaging with labels fully visible and ensure that your paperwork and packaging match up.

Bring enough medication when travelling to avoid finding a doctor interstate or going without. However, you should make sure that you’re only carrying enough for your personal treatment plan, as if you travel with excess you could risk being charged with having an intent to distribute.

Driving And Medical Cannabis

Right now it’s illegal to drive with any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in your system in all Australian states except Tasmania. Given that THC can remain in your system for days or even weeks, it means taking your cannabis prescription and then driving could put you at risk of losing your licence —  even if you aren’t impaired.

Until driving laws are changed to better accommodate medical cannabis patients, you may need to seek alternative transport this holiday season or switch to an isolated CBD product. These options obviously aren’t ideal for many patients, so speak with your doctor if you’re wondering how you can best manage your health and still be able to legally drive.

Speaking to Family About Medical Cannabis

Even though medical cannabis is legal in Australia, many people still associate cannabis use with ‘stoners’ and do not understand the new rules and regulations or patient benefits.

First, your nerves are valid: when you’ve made a personal decision about a medical treatment that betters your quality of life, it can be challenging to have that decision questioned by family members or friends.

Remember, if you feel uncomfortable discussing your condition or treatment plan, you don’t have to. But if you want to address the issue head-on, stay calm and focus on facts over emotions.

Here are some tips to help you navigate these conversations:

  • If you choose to discuss medical cannabis with your family or friends, aim for a productive conversation, not an argument.
  • Approach the topic one-on-one to avoid overwhelming debates.
  • Understand their perspective to keep the conversation non-confrontational.
  • Use scientific evidence and doctor's information to address concerns to help clarify misconceptions. For example, many people still associate cannabis with a ‘high’ and may not have encountered non-psychoactive compounds like CBD.
  • Supporting the evidence with anecdotes about your personal experience can go a long way to breaking down misconceptions.

Mixing Alcohol and Medical Cannabis

It can be hard to say no to a tipple when everyone else is celebrating. But, like any prescription medication, combining medical cannabis and alcohol can come with risks:

  • One study from 2015 saw patients drink either a placebo or a small amount of alcohol 10 minutes before inhaling either a low or high dose of THC. The researchers found significantly higher peak THC levels among the participants in the group who did consume alcohol when compared to the control group.
  • In another study, results suggested that cannabis may slow down the rise of blood alcohol, which means the feelings of drunkenness would be delayed, leaving the individual at a higher risk of overconsumption.

The body of research around medical cannabis and alcohol consumption is still limited. But the evidence suggests that no matter the dose or order of consumption, it’s better to avoid mixing the two where possible.

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