Consumption of medical cannabis in public
Since medical cannabis was legalized in 2016, the number of patients has increased astronomically. In mid-late 2021, the flower as a form of medicine became the fastest growing type of product being prescribed by doctors across Australia. While this is excellent news for patients, the laws regarding how patients should consume these medications are not very clear.
Many patients find themselves in trouble with the police, not because they are doing anything harmful, but because even the police are not clear what the laws are. This article will reveal what the law says about taking cannabis medicine in public. The most frequently asked question about cannabis use is: Is it legal to smoke medicinal cannabis or use it in public?
As we work with an attorney to review and interpret the law, please remember that this is not legal advice. This is what the article covers:
Is it legal to take medical cannabis in public?
To answer this question, we need to look at two types of medical cannabis delivery methods:
- Inhalable products – products such as flower cartridges, retail and vape
- Oral Products – Products such as oils, chewables, and capsules that are consumed in a manner similar to conventional medicines.
Below we’ll cover both forms of delivery methods and explain what the law says (or doesn’t say).
Can I smoke medical marijuana in public places?
No, you may not smoke medicinal cannabis anywhere, including smoking areas. The reason for this is that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website expressly states Patient Counseling Department:
“A variety of products are currently available…including raw (vegetarian) cannabis, which should be fumigated for medicinal purposes and not smoked.”
Therefore, if you want to stay out of trouble with law enforcement (and do what’s best for your health and wallet), you should not smoke medicinal cannabis. This information then leads to the issue of vaping in public.
Can I fumigate medical cannabis in public?
There are no laws prohibiting the fumigation of medicinal cannabis in public smoking places. So, in theory, the answer is yes, you can use medicinal cannabis in public, but only in smoking areas.
However, even in smoking areas, the laws regarding fumigating your medical cannabis are gray laws. As a member of the Australian public, you are still subject to common law. Because of this, law enforcement still has powers to prevent you from vaporizing your medication in public if, for example, they consider you to be a nuisance or cause a public disturbance.
In theory, you could get caught or take your medications even when vaping in a public smoking area. Attorney David Heilpern gave us this example:
If you are vaping in a public place with people around, in a smoking area or not, a person may complain of public disturbance, and a police officer can tell you that you are not allowed to vaping around other people.
In the same sense that passive smoking of tobacco can be harmful, passive inhalation of THC vapor is also dangerous for people nearby. Although vapor dissipates faster than cigarette smoke, it still has a physical presence in the air and can be considered a public disturbance or a public nuisance.
In this scenario, you might then argue that you are legally ill, taking medication, not hurting anyone and not going to stop, in which case you could risk arrest under the broad police powers of “public disorder”.
Since the laws aren’t quite as clear, you have to be reasonable and listen to law enforcement if you get stuck. Always keep your medicines in the original container, keep your script close at hand, keep away from children, be careful and make sure you stick to the laws as often as you can.
Are you traveling domestically within Australia?
If you are traveling between states within Australia and would like to know how to travel with your medication, check out our website Traveling with medical cannabis Article – commodity.
Oral consumption of CBD oil or other medicinal cannabis products in public
With oral products, the answer is simple, like all other medications, you can take an oral product in public.
Remember that the police still have powers to stop you from doing this. However, it seems unlikely that you will have any problems with a police officer if you take the tablet or capsule in public.
There are no laws that expressly state that you may not take cannabis medicine in public – noting that patients often cite cannabis Medical Cannabis (Getting Sympathy) Bill 2018 in New South Wales. However, this law was not passed.
If you are taking an oily product, your risk of having any trouble with law enforcement is very low. If you have been prescribed an inhaled product, you may only vaporize that product, not smoke it, and may only do so in smoking areas.
Always let logic prevail. If a police officer or someone asks you to stop, do what they tell you so you don’t get into legal trouble. It’s not good for anyone when medical cannabis patients have trouble with the law.