The global cannabis market is poised to explode in value, with an estimated projected worth of $55 billion by 2025. Before you go buying up stock in vape pens, there are a few hurdles to overcome. This includes a complicated and convoluted licensing process as well as a physician community that is reluctant to recommend or prescribe cannabis to patients.
In 2017, Australia joined 20 other countries who have either legalised cannabis for medical use or legalised the drug completely. Going a step further, the country legalised marijuana exports in 2019, priming it to become a significant player in the global cannabis market. Australia has success in this sort of agri-pharma market: it produces approximately 50% of the world’s legal poppy supply. Pharmaceutical companies eventually process these poppies into prescription pain relievers like codeine and morphine.
Below you’ll find a look at how the cannabis industry is getting along in some of Australia’s most significant areas.
Australian Capital Territory
There is a bill in process right now to legalise cannabis for personal use in the ACT. Cannabis is already decriminalised. However, due its territory status, commonwealth laws may override the rules they want to put into place. The Assembly is currently hashing out how they want to negotiate the legal tangle. Among the things they want to do is to allow cannabis growers to create “social houses”, essentially mini co-op farms for cannabis and to allow hydroponic cultivation.
New South Wales
Although medical cannabis cultivation is legal nationwide, the Northern Territory is still playing catch up. The government of NT is still up in the air about legalising industrial hemp cultivation. However, the state won big last year when Canadian medical cannabis distributor Wayland Group chose the Northern Territory as its newest hub, hoping to cash in on the thriving Asian cannabis market from that location.
Last year, the first private cannabis clinic in Queensland opened its doors. Before it can begin prescribing cannabis, however, it is awaiting government approval. The Queensland Department of Health is working hard to make access easier for patients in need by streamlining the process.
Steven Miles, the state’s Minister for Health, said that the changes that would affect the Medical Cannabis Act of 2016 are intended to bring the state more in line with other states in Australia, such as Victoria and New South Wales.
In July of last year, South Australia suffered a humiliating setback when the public outcry about increasing the penalties for marijuana possession forced the SA attorney general to rethink the government’s position. The state seems to be behind medical cannabis use while wholeheartedly opposing recreational use of the plant.
In November, the state hosted a medical marijuana symposium that had a focus on both national and international speakers discussing the challenges that the cannabis industry is currently facing. This, combined with the state-of-the-art research facilities in South Australia, could allow the state to move to be a front runner in the industry.
Sadly, Tasmania is lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to legal access to medical cannabis. Since 2017, when the state approved medical access to patients, only seven patients have been prescribed medical cannabis products. Part of this is the fact that other states allow patients to process their applications online, while Tasmania does not.
Even though the government seems to be lagging behind other states, the population seems more progressive. In a survey of 1,100 citizens, 59% approved of access to medical cannabis while only 28% opposed it entirely. The industrial sector, too, is encouraging. The largest opium processing company in the state, Tasmanian Alkaloids, has moved into the research and development phase of medical cannabis production.
Victoria has been at the forefront of championing research and access to medical cannabis. It became the first state to legalise access to medical patients back in 2016. The state already has multiple companies setting up shop there and is attracting international attention. Two Canadian cannabis companies have previously announced intentions to invest in Victoria’s cannabis industry, with Cronos Australia, parented by Cronos Group, has announced that Victoria will become the headquarters for its Asian-Pacific endeavours.
Though once lagging behind other states, Western Australia is slowly catching up. The state’s first medical-cannabis centric clinic opened in Subiaco in December 2018. The Western Australia Department of Health is doing its part by working hard to streamline regulations and make access for patients in need much more straightforward. However, medicinal cannabis products are still considered to be unapproved controlled drugs, meaning approval from both the Department of Health and the federal Therapeutic Goods Administration is needed.
On the whole, Australia has positioned itself to be a dominant player in the global cannabis market. However, recreational use remains illegal, so keep this in mind before you pack your dry herb vaporiser for that Aussie vacation you’ve been planning!
Thank you Michael Jacobs for this guest article.