The business of medicinal cannabis
Perth-based medicinal cannabis business AusCann has recently partnered with a Chilean group to produce the crop in South America.
The 400 plants, across eight strains, are being grown on a 30-hectare facility south of Santiago.
The crop was planted in November, and the first harvest is expected in April.
AusCann says the plants will be sold to third parties for use in a range of clinical trials later this year.
When combined with their links to medicinal cannabis growing groups in Canada and Europe, AusCann is well set up to be a major player in the global sector.
Cannabis contains more than 60 psychoactive chemicals.
One of these is THC, which is found in the resin covering the flowering tops and upper leaves of the female plant.
THC is the chemical that alters mood and produces the feeling of a ‘high’.
Cannabis also contains cannabidiol, which can offset the effects of THC.
Proponents of the medical cannabis point to success in treating epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
It can be used in patients with chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease and more.
Cannabis may also relieve nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
But doctors have been cautious in their support of medicinal cannabis.
The Australian Medical Association has stressed that any promotion of the medical use of cannabis must go hand in hand with education on the risks of non-medical use.
IN THE EYES OF THE LAW
AusCann and other medicinal cannabis companies are poised to capitalise on a series of recent legislative shifts.
These aim to facilitate access to marijuana for patients with a genuine medical need.
Changes to the Narcotic Drugs Act passed in February 2016 paved the way for legally grown cannabis plants to be made into pharmaceutical products in Australia.
Last month the Federal Government streamlined the importation process.
In WA, it became legal for chemists to sell medical cannabis to people with a prescription on 1 November 2016.
Doctors could prescribe cannabis to patients from the same date.
But they must first get approval from both the Therapeutic Goods Administration and a Department of Health committee.
It remains illegal to cultivate cannabis for recreational use.
WA’s climate is ideal for growing cannabis and the State could see a hefty slice of the medical cannabis pie.
AusCann, which boasts heavy-hitting board members including former WA attorney-general Cheryl Edwardes and former Liberal MP Mal Washer, is keen to grow cannabis in WA.
Another local company, MGC Pharma, could do the same.
Any growing operation will be subject to security measures including walls or fences, CCTV and alarms.
AusCann is banking on measures to distinguish its legally grown cannabis from illegal supplies.
It has reportedly hired forensic science firm Source Certain to maintain supply chain integrity.
AusCann also signed a five-year research agreement with Murdoch University in May 2016.
The partnership will develop medical cannabis strains suited to Australian growing conditions.