The Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill was passed by the Australian Federal Government in February 2016, a milestone for medicinal cannabis in this country. In October 2016, the Narcotic Drugs Regulation 2016 was published, which adds a lot more detail. Several States and Territories have since amended and/or introduced new legislation and regulation.

In June 2015, the Lambert family donated $33.7 million to the University of Sydney, establishing the ‘Lambert Initiative’. This is the largest medicinal cannabis research group in the country, providing an invaluable boost to the development of treatments for childhood epilepsy, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, anorexia and dementia.

Legislation to enable the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and related research purposes in Australia was passed by Parliament on 29 February 2016. The amendments relating to licensing came into effect on 30 October 2016.

Cannabis cultivation in Australia is still relatively small, as recreational use remains illegal. But the government hopes domestic medicinal use and exports will rapidly boost production. “Our goal is very clear: to give farmers and producers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal cannabis,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.

Provided domestic supply of medicinal cannabis is not affected, the following products are eligible for export if granted a licence and permit to export

  • Medicinal cannabis products manufactured in Australia under a GMP licence.
  • Medicinal cannabis products listed as export-only, or registered, on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG)
  • Extracts of cannabis (or extracts of cannabis resin) manufactured under a Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 licence and permit that are not in the final dosage form.

There are three types of licences relating to the supply of medicinal cannabis products available:

  • medicinal cannabis licence authorising cultivation or production or both
  • cannabis research licence authorising similar process for research purposes
  • manufacturing licence authorizing the manufacture of a drug or product.

As at 16 February 2018, there were 30 licenses. As at 11 July 2018, a total of 47 licences have been issued under the scheme: 18 medicinal cannabis licences (commercial cultivation and production), 10 cannabis research licences, and 19 cannabis manufacture licences. The Office of Drug Control (ODC) has another licence applications under assessment.

License type Number of licenses granted
Medicinal Cannabis License (cultivation and production) 18
Cannabis Research License (cultivation and production) 10
Manufacture License 19

In January 2018, Australia said it planned to become the fourth country in the world to legalize medicinal cannabis exports in a bid to score a piece of the estimated $57 billion global market.

A 2016 University of Sydney report, Medicinal Cannabis in Australia: Science, Regulation & Industryfound that the Australian medicinal cannabis market, once opened up, could spark initial demand for as much as 8,000 kg of product, creating an industry worth more than $100 million a year.

According to BDS Analytics report (“The Road Map to a $57 Billion Worldwide Market”), Australia’s legal cannabis market is forecast to grow from $52 million in 2018 to $1.2 billion in 2027, the 5th largest in the world.

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