Australia to Begin Exporting Medical Cannabis
In a move intended to capitalize on the $55 billion dollar global cannabis industry, Australia announced Thursday that it would permit medical cannabis exports, joining Canada, Uruguay, and The Netherlands. Adult-use cannabis is still illegal in Australia, but medical has been legal since February of 2016. There is also increased interest in the scientific potential that cannabis may have; The Office of Drug Control in the Federal Department of Health issued the very first Cannabis Research licence in early 2017.
"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.
Decision Could Lead to Increased Interest in Australia's Medical Marijuana Program
The medical marijuana market in Australia remains somewhat small, leading the country to look at exports in order to increase revenue and raise interest for its medical program.
"While the Australian patient base is growing, it is very small," said Peter Crock, CEO of Cann Group, which cultivates cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. "Being able to export will allow us to have the scale to increase production." Hunt added the new legislation would include a stipulation that growers first meet demand from local patients before exporting the remainder of their crop.
The legislation still needs to be passed by Australia’s federal government, although the main opposition Labor Party has confirmed support. Upon passage when parliament returns to session in February, exports could begin within months.
Announcement Leads Australian Pot Stocks to Skyrocket
Australian cannabis stocks surged following the government’s announcement, with The Auscann Group (AC8:ASE) jumping more than 50 percent. The Hydroponics Co. Ltd (THC:ASE) and Cann Group Ltd (CAN:ASE) shares rose by 30 percent.
Jonathan Sherman, a marijuana securities lawyer at Cassels Brock, a Canadian law firm specializing in cannabis legalization believes that the announcement out of Australia will only further the global efforts towards legalization.
“The Australian government’s decision to allow medical cannabis exports supports the development of the cannabis industry internationally,” Sherman said in an interview with Quartz. “The decision continues to validate the significant global opportunity for medical marijuana, which will have a continued positive impact for efforts in other countries developing policies for legalization.”