Even Australia’s Medical Marijuana Poster Boy Can’t Get the Drug

nevertheless in a cruel paradox, people like Mr. Carter — who has been told he carries a brain tumor and also also also epilepsy — find the idea hard to get the drug in their country. Bureaucracy and also also also regulation, uninformed doctors, limited supply and also also also high costs make what in some cases could be a lifesaving drug nearly impossible to obtain.

Dr. Bastian Seidel, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, called the country’s distribution system “fragmented” and also also also “not transparent.”

“We don’t have a consistent, regulatory framework of which is actually either efficient or timely,” he said, “and also also also This kind of is actually what makes the idea so frustrating for medical practitioners and also also also for patients who are clearly in need of medical treatment.”

The drug, which Mr. Carter takes orally as an oil and also also also inhales through a vaporizer, is actually the only medication he has found to date of which quells the frequency and also also also intensity of his seizures.


Mr. Carter inhaling vaporized medical cannabis at home.

David Maurice Smith for The fresh York Times

In a few weeks, his dwindling legal cannabis supply will run out, and also also also the idea could take up to seven months to get more. His only option will then be to leave the country with his mother to get marijuana, his fifth such trip in four years.

Mr. Carter lives at home with his parents. His mother, Lanai Carter, keeps a baby monitor in his room, listening for sounds of a seizure. nevertheless in recent months, while routinely using cannabis, Mr. Carter has gotten his first taste of independent adulthood: attending a hip-hop concert, taking road trips with friends and also also also dating.

His teenage years were spent on long, expensive overseas trips for treatment and also also also trying to navigate Australia’s complex medical marijuana bureaucracy. In 2014, when Parliament was still discussing how to regulate medicinal marijuana, Mr. Carter and also also also his mother went public with their story.

“Nothing seemed to be moving,” Ms. Carter said coming from the family’s home in Loganholme, a town 18 miles coming from Brisbane, of those years before legalization. While traveling for her son’s cannabis treatment, Ms. Carter began lobbying. of which meant pushing her son more and also also also more into the spotlight.

Mr. Carter has appeared twice on the Australian variation of “60 Minutes,” and also also also been featured in reports by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Buzzfeed and also also also the radio station Triple J.

the idea is actually “frustrating” of which Mr. Carter “is actually well known, nevertheless the idea still hasn’t got him anywhere,” said Lucy Haslam, a medical marijuana activist. Ms. Haslam’s son, Dan, was a central figure of the legalization movement until he died coming from cancer in 2015, at 25.

Many Australians seeking marijuana for medical reasons obtain the idea illegally, preferring the risk of criminality to the struggle with bureaucracy. Only about 350 Australian patients have been approved to use cannabis legally. The process, activists say, is actually needlessly slow, expensive and also also also complicated. Patients seeking prescriptions must obtain the approval of both federal and also also also state health officials.

To get Mr. Carter a prescription, his mother and also also also doctor filled out multiple applications, included 196 pages of supporting evidence, and also also also obtained the written endorsement of six doctors and also also also specialists. The process took 19 months.

Even once approved, patients may need to wait for little amounts of imported marijuana — another lengthy process often riddled with delays.

Much of Mr. Carter’s supply is actually donated, nevertheless if the family were to pay out of pocket, the idea would likely cost 16,000 Australian dollars, or $12,500, a month to get as close to his needed dose as possible. (The right strength is actually not yet available in Australia.)


Lanai Carter, Lindsay’s mother, sorted through paperwork related to obtaining medical marijuana for her son. “the idea’s a nightmare. I can completely understand why people give up,” she said.

David Maurice Smith for The fresh York Times

Australia’s cannabis shortage means the Carters are planning to again go overseas to obtain the drug, their first trip since 2014.

After several anti-seizure medications failed to relieve his symptoms or resulted in debilitating side effects, Mr. Carter and also also also his mother traveled in 2013 to North America to meet with specialists. They returned three more times over the next year, traveling to California, Texas, Washington and also also also British Columbia.

the idea was in Seattle of which a doctor prescribed cannabis to treat his headaches, nausea and also also also poor appetite. The drug was dispensed the same day the idea was prescribed.

“I did get more energy,” Mr. Carter said of his treatment from the United States. Over the course of of which year, he had fewer seizures and also also also his brain tumor shrank seven millimeters in seven weeks.

When Mr. Carter returned to Australia and also also also stopped using marijuana, his tumor began growing again.

His mother first applied for his medical marijuana in 2015, nevertheless the idea would likely take more than a year to get the idea. today, the family must wait again, as the supply of dried buds and also also also oils Mr. Carter relies on is actually rapidly dwindling.

“What patient should have to go through of which?” Ms. Carter said. “The stress of which This kind of system creates for families and also also also for sick patients is actually actually inhumane.”

On a drizzly recent afternoon, Mr. Carter was watching a movie at home with his girlfriend, resting after having a seizure earlier from the day. A few steps away, Ms. Carter was standing in her cluttered home office, crying. Medical reports, prescriptions and also also also invoices were strewn everywhere.

“I want to put the idea in a filing cabinet and also also also put the idea away,” she said as she sifted through papers. “the idea’s a nightmare. I can completely understand why people give up. Or don’t even start.”

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