Medical cannabis trade given the go-ahead in Australia: Firms applying to supply products

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Under the plans, patients will still have to request medicinal cannabis through their GP, said Hunt. ©iStock
Under the plans, patients will still have to request medicinal cannabis through their GP, said Hunt. ©iStock
Australia is to establish a legal medical cannabis trade in as little as eight weeks under plans announced by federal health minister Greg Hunt.

Hunt said officials were seeking to boost local supply and ease import laws to meet demand, with applications now open for companies wanting to distribute medical cannabis products.

At present, patients can legally access medical cannabis from overseas via their GP, but Hunt said access was on a case-by-case basis and required people to wait many weeks for the drug to arrive.

Hunt said; “We will authorise controlled importation by approved providers from approved international sources for interim supply in Australia, until domestic production meets local needs.

"At present, doctors approved to supply medicinal cannabis products must import the product as local production is only starting to be developed following the passage of legislation to allow domestic production late last year.

"As part of these changes, importers will be able to source medicinal cannabis products from a reputable supplier overseas and store these in a safe, secure warehouse in Australia. This will be an effective interim supply to be provided through approved commercial importers."

The drug is used to treat patients with a number of illnesses and conditions, including cancer, severe epilepsy and motor neurone disease. Under the plans, patients will still have to request medicinal cannabis through their GP, said Hunt.

Shorten timeframes

He added the scheme would ensure there were sufficient supplies for "all of the medical demand".

“Patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis by an authorised doctor will be able to source the medication from a company in Australia - rather than on an individual case-by-case basis from overseas which involves delays in importation,"​ Hunt added.

"This will shorten timeframes to the supply of medicinal cannabis for patients."

The Department of Health has already contacted a number of companies that are interested in supplying the Australian market with products. Officials hope to have the scheme up and running in just eight weeks.

Hunt said there was also a private cultivation program being developed for long-term supply with the first licence issued last week to Cannoperations Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian company Cann Group Limited.

The licence allows Cannoperations to legally cultivate medicinal cannabis and conduct research on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The Government last year legalised medicinal cannabis use with individual states regulating its cultivation. Victoria has already harvested its first cannabis crop for medicinal use by people with epilepsy.

Meanwhile hemp suppliers are standing by for a food-safety ruling by a council of Australian state ministers in April on the status of hemp and its related products as a food and nutrition source.

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