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.
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 $55 billion global market.
A 2016 University of Sydney report, Medicinal Cannabis in Australia: Science, Regulation & Industry, found 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.
Cannabis cultivation in Australia is still relatively small, as recreational use remains illegal. But the government hopes domestic medicinal use, legalized last year, 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.
Shares in the more than a dozen Australian cannabis producers listed on the local exchange soared after the announcement. Cann Group, AusCann Group and BOD Australia all rose more than 20 percent, hitting record highs, while Hydroponics Company rose 19 percent to its highest price in a month. Some of these businesses are planning on an import-heavy strategy, allowing them to leverage already-established cultivation and manufacturing facilities overseas, while others are focusing primarily on domestic production for both local consumption and potential future export. While they wait for the regulatory green light, several firms are engaged in discussions with major Australian universities to test and develop new treatments and products.
The new legislation could include a requirement that growers first meet demand from local patients before exporting the remainder of their crop.
Despite growing demand, only Uruguay, Canada and the Netherlands have so far legalized the export of medicinal marijuana. Israel has said it intends to do so within months.
The Australian government’s proposal needs to pass federal parliament when it returns to session in February. The country’s main opposition Labor Party has signaled it would support the move. Exports would then likely begin within months.
As at 16 February 2018, a total of 30 licences have been issued under this scheme: 14 medicinal cannabis licences (commercial cultivation and production), 8 cannabis research licences, and 8 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)||14|
|Cannabis Research License (cultivation and production)||8|
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