In order to get an accurate idea of what you might be expected to pay for a medical cannabis prescription, you'll need to consider several factors – namely, the initial consultation, daily prescribed dose and product type.
If you are just getting started on your medical cannabis journey, the following information will help you better understand the associated costs.
Medical Cannabis Costs, Trending Downward
The good news, according to FreshLeaf Analytics, is with more than 100,000 medical cannabis patients in Australia, the “Average monthly spend continues its slow downward trend,” even while the “average daily dose increases.”
What does this mean for patients? It means costs are slowly coming down thanks in part to more locally produced cannabis right here in Australia, and more prescriptions all around.
Another factor making cannabis more affordable for patients is access to online consultations and patient care. Telehealth provides Australia-wide services, without compromising on care, by offering online consults and follow ups with a team of experienced cannabis practitioners.
With telehealth consultations and lower monthly prescription costs, medical cannabis becomes a more accessible and more affordable alternative.
How Much Will I Pay for Medical Cannabis?
Several factors go into the expected monthly costs for a medical cannabis prescription. What consultation do you need? What products are suitable for your condition? Which options have been prescribed by your doctor?
Ultimately, your own unique needs will determine the exact amount of your monthly medical cannabis cost, but here is a run down of what to expect.
Note that medical cannabis consultations are generally not covered by Medicare and prescriptions aren’t covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It’s worth speaking with your private healthcare insurer before making an appointment with a cannabis clinic as they may offer coverage.
Most consultations will begin with an initial pre-screening, which tends to be free of charge. This is when you will answer introductory questions that will help determine your initial eligibility as a good candidate for medical cannabis.
The next phase is a consultation with a nurse, who will work with you to establish your medical history, discuss whether cannabis may be suitable for your chronic condition and other related queries.
Then you will meet with the prescribing doctor, who will review your personal history and – if they decide that medical cannabis might be beneficial – develop your personalised treatment plan.
While there are no hard and fast rules regarding consultation pricing, they tend to be between $80-$150.
Medical Cannabis Costs
Another consideration is the cost of purchasing your prescription products. These prices can vary for a variety of reasons.
The amount of medical cannabis you are prescribed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis will determine how much you pay. This is dependent on your diagnosis and unique physiology.
The average patient pays about $5 to $15 per day, or $250 to $300 per month. FreshLeaf Analytics reports that the average monthly spend in 2021 was $278.
Of course, not everyone is on the same dose. Just like within conventional medicine, medical cannabis prescriptions should be highly personalised to your condition, experience and therapeutic goal.
Cost Differences Between Brand and Product Type
Prices vary between brands and product types and are often driven by quality of flower/strain, THC content, growing process and whether an oil is an isolate or full-spectrum option. Product types include oils, flowers for vaporising, creams, sprays and more. For THC and CBD oils in Australia, the prescription costs tend to be lower and are also more commonly prescribed for patients.
How To Calculate Your Product Cost?
When a 10g canister of dried flower can cost $150 or more, it’s natural to think that the price is way too high.
However, the weight of the product itself isn’t really important – what’s important is the price per milligram of THC or CBD. CBD has a base price of around $0.05/mg, while THC can be $0.12/mg or more.
If we wanted to ask how much a prescription CBD oil was in Australia, we could calculate the per mg cost by dividing the price by the mg/ml and then multiplying it by the actual amount. For instance, if a 30ml bottle of 100mg/ml CBD oil costs $200, then $200/(100x30) = $0.067/mg.
But more than anything, the question of price really comes down to how much THC and CBD you’re consuming through your treatment plan. If your experience with cannabis is limited, it’s likely that your doctor will start you on a very low dose – as the saying goes, “Start low, go slow”. You can also help keep the price down by ensuring that you’re dosing efficiently, primarily by vaporising instead of smoking any dried flower you may be prescribed. (Oil in general is a more efficient way of administering cannabinoids.)
Why is Medical Cannabis so Expensive in Australia?
Cost remains the primary barrier to people getting access to cannabis care. $250-300 per month is simply not a price that everyone can afford to pay.
There are a number of reasons for this, but chief among them is the sheer newness of the industry. Fully regulated and compliant cannabis growers and producers have yet to reach the economies of scale required to bring the prices down as far as they can go. This means that most of the cannabis consumed in Australia is imported from overseas – somewhere around 80%. However the situation is rapidly changing and competition is leading to significant downward pressure on prices.
Another reason is the high level of regulation and scrutiny that medical cannabis producers face. Make no mistake: this is a good thing! Medical cannabis is scrutinised at every step of the way to ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting, how strong it’s going to be, how it’s been grown and where it comes from. But this adds to the costs for medical cannabis producers.
However, the Australian medical cannabis market has now hit a point where its products are essentially the same price as illegal offerings (the so-called green market) – and this is especially true if you use more efficient methods of ingestion, such as vaporising or oils.
How To Get A CBD Oil Prescription in Australia
In 2021, the TGA announced that low-dose CBD oils would now be available to buy over the counter at your local pharmacy. However, it is still almost impossible to access pure CBD oil without a prescription due to the way that medical products are regulated in Australia.
In order to be sold through pharmacies, products need to be registered with the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). This is an involved and expensive process that requires clinical trials and formal approvals and which can take up to 2 years. Given the change only came into effect in 2021, it will probably take until later in 2023 before the first products arrive in pharmacies.
In the meantime, you can still get a CBD oil prescription in Australia through your doctor. As with other forms of medical cannabis, the cost will depend on your dosage and treatment plan, but is generally cheaper than THC-dominant products.
Is Medical Cannabis an Affordable and Accessible Option?
Times are changing in Australia and prices for legal cannabis are trending downward. Furthermore, with many private health funds offering rebates to patients, the cost of medical cannabis decreases again. If you're looking for relief from a chronic condition and believe you can afford the costs, it may be worth booking an appointment at a cannabis clinic or with your local GP.
There are a number of risks associated with the use of medical cannabis and your doctor will explain these to you before issuing a prescription. Medical cannabis affects everyone differently and may not help with your chronic condition.