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Medical cannabis red tape forces thousands to turn to black market for pain relief


Photo: Medicinal cannabis user Simon Sweeting struggled to obtain a prescription for the drug. (ABC News: Nadia Daly) Medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia two years ago, but patients and doctors are still struggling to access the drug and say the barriers and bureaucracy are driving thousands of people to a flourishing black market. Simon Sweeting suffered chronic back pain for decades after a fracture and several surgeries. For years he sought relief from a cocktail of opioids and other painkillers, but when the pain got worse and the side effects from the medication became too much, his GP began the long process of applying for permission to prescribe medical cannabis. "[My GP] was denied by the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration]. [Then] my specialist tried to apply, and he was denied by NSW Health and the TGA," he said. Two years later, with the help of a lawyer working pro-bono, Mr Sweeting obtained a prescription and his cannabis medication, no longer needing his other painkillers. He is one of 500 Australians who now use medicinal cannabis legally.<