How is Australia responding to the medicinal cannabis industry?

Medicinal Cannabis

Following the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use by the Federal Government in 2016, there has been plenty of discussion about whether the products, including oils, sprays, patches and tablets, will sink or swim both in Australia’s community and our economy.

 

There’s not a day that goes by without the media talking about a new Aussie cannabis provider throwing their hat into the ring, or new research that shows the impact cannabis is, or sometimes isn’t quite having on various health conditions.

 

While opinion may be divided on the effectiveness of the plant, NSW and Victoria were quick to sanction use of cannabis as a medicinal product in their respective states, and licenses have already been handed out to organisations for the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal marijuana.

 

Queensland followed suit, and the first Australian company to be granted a cultivation license was Queensland-based Medifarm, who are understandably positive about the new legislation as their large production facility nears completion on the Sunshine Coast.

 

Medifarm founder, Adam Benjamin, welcomed the news earlier this month from Health Minister, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, that will allow medicinal cannabis to be exported from Australia. However, he believes the priority is treating patients on home shores first.

 

“We’re hoping to have these first genetic materials landed within a month and local production out the farm gate within the next three to four months.

 

“We were consulted by the Office of Drug Control, the federal licensing authority, last year about whether we were interested in exporting,” Mr Benjamin told the ABC.

 

“While we think it’s a good idea, we are to treat Australian patients first and in particular we’re treating Queensland patients first.”

 

Potential global markets include the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, Italy and a number of South American countries.

 

However, the President of Canadian cannabis producer Tilray, Brendan Kennedy, believes other countries closer to the equator have better conditions for producing the raw material. He also feels the demand in Australia hasn’t been as big as expected so far.

 

“We’re seeing positive signs [but] it’s just not as large as we anticipated,” Mr Kennedy said.

 

“It’s one of the reasons we didn’t invest in a cultivation facility in Australia.”

 

But before looking too far afield, Australian GPs will need to feel comfortable prescribing medicinal cannabis to their patients if widespread use is to occur on our shores.

 

A strong domestic market, coupled with international opportunities, will surely lead to an increased number, as well as an improved quality, of growers and producers in Australia.