The public relies on government websites to provide correct information in a readily understandable manner. Earlier this week, I came across this statement on NSW Health’s website: “Can I possess a cannabis medicine which was prescribed to me as a patient by an overseas doctor? No“.
Interesting. Sydney’s a major entry point into Australia, so are all of these overseas travellers who relied on the traveller’s exemption to carry their legally prescribed and supplied medicinal cannabis breaking NSW law?
I have no idea. I followed through to the legislation referenced on that webpage to see if it would help. Section 10(2)(c) of the NSW Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 seems to give an exception to the offence of possessing a prohibited drug where its been “lawfully prescribed or supplied”. I had a bit of a look to see if there was a definition for “lawfully prescribed or supplied”, and couldn’t see anything, so I thought I’d ask the experts (i.e. NSW Health) for clarity on why this answer is a blanket ‘no’.
I was very impressed because I received a phone call back from NSW Health within 2 hours of my webform submission. The content of the call was less impressive. It had patronising comments which didn’t go to the question, it was implied I illegally held cannabis, I was questioned about why I would contact NSW Health when calling from Queensland and told that I shouldn’t be asking on behalf of someone else. I was advised that to be given an answer, I would need to outline exactly what medicinal cannabis product was being brought in, in what quantities, and show a copy of the prescription. I said that if I needed to do all of that, the answer to the question in the FAQ didn’t sound like it was a ‘no’. It was a very uncomfortable phone call because NSW Health could not understand why I’d ask a question about their website if I wasn’t personally bringing in medicinal cannabis into NSW.
It is vitally important that government agencies provide correct information to the public and that they can explain where that information comes from. For anyone who works in the medicinal cannabis industry, please ask questions and provide feedback to agencies when information seems incorrect or is unclear (or forms are hard to use, looking at you ODC 😉). Having written webpages and guidance documents, I know it’s a really difficult task and even with the best intent content can go awry. It’s possible that the Q&A was actually intended to be about whether a NSW resident could have an overseas doctor issue a prescription and have it filled here (or mailed over).
I still don’t know whether that FAQ answer is right or wrong, or where it comes from. I’ve been advised that my query will be ‘escalated’. We’ll see.