One of Australia’s most experienced authorised prescribers of medicinal cannabis, Dr James Stewart, has decided to leave the corporate world behind and start his own independent practice on the Sunshine Coast. Dr Stewart, who has been prescribing cannabis since 2016, said he was unhappy with the direction and vision of his former employers, Levin Heath and One Health Clinics.
Dr Stewart told Cannabiz that he felt constrained by the corporate model and wanted to have more autonomy and flexibility in his work. He said he was also concerned about the quality and consistency of the products and services offered by the companies he worked for.
“I felt that I was not able to provide the best care for my patients and that I was not able to follow my own clinical judgement and ethics,” he said. “I also felt that there was a lack of transparency and accountability in the way the companies operated and communicated with their stakeholders.”
Dr Stewart said he had no regrets about leaving the corporate world and was excited to start his new venture, which he described as a “boutique” practice that would focus on personalised and holistic care for his patients.
“I want to offer a more individualised and tailored approach to cannabis medicine, where I can spend more time with each patient and get to know them better,” he said. “I also want to collaborate with other health professionals and experts in the field, and to be involved in research and education.”
A pioneer and advocate of cannabis medicine in Australia
Dr Stewart is widely regarded as one of the pioneers and advocates of cannabis medicine in Australia. He was one of the first doctors to obtain an authorised prescriber status from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in 2016, and has since prescribed cannabis to more than 2,000 patients for a range of conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer, anxiety, and PTSD.
He has also been instrumental in raising awareness and educating the public and the medical community about the benefits and challenges of cannabis medicine. He has appeared in numerous media outlets, podcasts, and documentaries, and has spoken at various events and conferences, such as the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Conference and the Hemp Health and Innovation Expo.
Dr Stewart said he was passionate about cannabis medicine and believed that it had the potential to improve the lives of many people who were suffering from debilitating and incurable diseases.
“I have seen firsthand the amazing results that cannabis can have on some of my patients, who have been able to reduce or eliminate their use of opioids and other harmful drugs, and to regain their quality of life and wellbeing,” he said. “I have also seen the challenges and barriers that patients face in accessing cannabis medicine, such as the cost, the stigma, the bureaucracy, and the lack of education and support.”
Dr Stewart said he hoped that his new practice would help to address some of these issues and to make cannabis medicine more accessible and affordable for his patients. He said he would also continue to advocate for cannabis reform and to push for more research and evidence-based practice in the field.
A growing demand and interest in cannabis medicine
Dr Stewart’s decision to go solo comes at a time when the demand and interest in cannabis medicine is growing rapidly in Australia and around the world. According to the latest data from the TGA, there were more than 120,000 approvals for medicinal cannabis products under the Special Access Scheme (SAS) Category B in 2023, a 300% increase from the previous year. The number of authorised prescribers also increased from 140 in 2022 to 220 in 2023.
The global cannabis market is also expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, as more countries legalise or decriminalise cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global legal cannabis market size was valued at USD 20.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.8% from 2021 to 2028.
Dr Stewart said he was optimistic about the future of cannabis medicine and hoped that his new practice would contribute to the advancement and innovation of the industry.
“I think we are at a tipping point where cannabis medicine is becoming more mainstream and accepted by the society and the medical profession,” he said. “I think there is a lot of potential and opportunity for cannabis medicine to grow and evolve, and I want to be part of that journey.”