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Australians battling chronic conditions such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis can now secure medicinal cannabis easier following the launch of the country’s first specialised Cannabis Access Clinics in Sydney and Melbourne last week.

Medicinal cannabis is an unregistered medicine requiring approval from federal and state governments and can only be prescribed after a successful application process under the Special Access Scheme (SAS).

The new Cannabis Access Clinics were given the green light and maintain their aim is to streamline the often-complex process surrounding access to medicinal cannabis for people who experience conditions that have shown benefit from use of the drug.

Clinics opened in Sydney and Melbourne last week and will follow in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth this month.

Staffed with GPs and specialists, the clinics will focus on helping patients suffering from conditions including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and palliative care and chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.

The process starts with people making an application to access medicinal cannabis that is then reviewed by Cannabis Access Clinics.

To be eligible, people must be an Australian resident and have been diagnosed with a condition that conventional treatments have failed to improve.

A letter from a GP or specialist backing the application is also required.

If a face-to-face or telehealth consultation with the clinic’s doctors is successful and the treatment deemed beneficial for the condition then a medicinal cannabis prescription can be dispensed easily from a pharmacy.

Cannabis Access Clinics Medical Director, Dr Sanjay Nijhawan, said the privately owned venture was striving to help people navigate their way through complex regulations surrounding medicinal cannabis.

“Our aim is to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic conditions and symptoms, while working within the regulations that the state and federal governments have put in place for medicinal cannabis.”

The treatment costs hundreds of dollars per month and clinics charge an out-of pocket fee of $300 for an initial consultation, which includes an application to government for approval. The approval process can take up to four weeks from when the application was lodged subject to the complexity of the case.