Medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis or cannabinoids (molecules found in the Cannabis plant) as medical therapy to treat disease or alleviate symptoms. 

Cannabis sativa has a long history as a medicinal plant, likely dating back more than two millennia (Russo et al., 20071). In 2737 BC the first recorded use of medicinal cannabis for therapeutic benefit was found,  aiming to combat a variety of ailments, including gout, rheumatism, and malaria.  

It was not until around 1839 that the therapeutic uses of cannabis derivatives were introduced to Western medicine by an Irish doctor, William O’Shaughnessy. This led to the widespread sale of cannabis extracts in the late 1800s. Later, in the 1900s, the cannabis plant was available over the counter in preparations such as tinctures. It was available as a licensed medicine in the United States for about a century before the American Medical Association removed it from the 12th edition of the U.S. Pharmacopeia (IOM, 19992). The uses of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes were effectively taxed out of existence in the USA by the Marijuana Tax Act and in 1961 the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs ushered in the era of global cannabis prohibition.  

Australia legalised medical cannabis and its cultivation for medical purposes in 2016. On 24 February 2016, the Australian parliament made amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act that legalised the commercial growing of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. The laws came into effect on 1 November 2016.  

Medical cannabis contains over 100 different active molecules called cannabinoids, which interact with the body's natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex cell-signalling system in the human body which helps to regulate functions such as sleep, pain, mood, and appetite. Its primary function is to ensure the body stays in homeostasis or balance. If the stability of your internal environment is thrown off by injury or fever for example, this will lead to the ECS responding to help your body to return to its natural balance. The ECS involves three core components: Endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids are molecules made by our bodies and help keep certain bodily functions running smoothly. They bind to receptors that are found throughout your whole body to signal that the ECS needs to act. Enzymes will break down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function. The two main endocannabinoid receptors are CB1 (found in the central nervous system) and CB2 (found in the peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells).  

Endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain, while others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders. The plant cannabinoids found in cannabis can interact with the ECS and therefore have the potential to impact bodily functions that the ECS controls, including appetite, metabolism, nerve function, pain, inflammation, mood, brain function and cardiovascular system function. While evidence and research of the interaction between the ECS and medical cannabis is growing, most doctors are not yet considering it as a valid alternative treatment option for chronic conditions. Cann Global identify this as part of our purpose, in that we are here to bridge this gap and to help educate health care practitioners.


Within Australia, the Commonwealth and each individual state and territory plays a role in the regulation of medicinal cannabis. 

The Commonwealth Department of Health regulates medicinal cannabis products through the Office of Drug Control (ODC). The ODC is responsible for regulating controlled substances and administers the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967. With regard to medicinal cannabis, the ODC grants licences and permits for cultivation, production and manufacture of cannabis for medicinal purposes. 

Additionally, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for the administration of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 under which all medicines must be registered or listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) before they can be supplied, unless they are exempt. Currently, most medicinal cannabis products are not entered in the ARTG, so they must be supplied via exemption pathways such as the Authorised Prescriber Scheme (APS) or Special Access Schemes (SAS) 

Patients cannot apply to the TGA to get medicinal cannabis themselves; only a doctor can apply. The doctor must meet certain requirements, must obtain permits, and must also comply with relevant state laws. 

Explore Cann Global’s Medicinal Cannabis range at canngloballimited.com/canntab.