Australian cannabis sales to surpass $150 million in 2021

Australia’s medical marijuana sales could surpass 200 million Australian dollars ($152 million) this year, a twofold increase over 2020, fueled by growing patient numbers and better product selection, according to a new forecast by data firm FreshLeaf Analytics.

The North Sydney-based company said Australia is still “heavily dependent” on Canada and Europe for imports of flower products.

The number of registered patients in Australia has grown markedly in recent years, the company said, rising from roughly 30,000 at the end of 2020 to 45,000 in March 2021.

Two years ago, Australia had only 3,000 active patients.

More trends this year will include:

  • Evolution of the regulatory regime guiding legal businesses and patient access.
  • A greater emphasis on product quality.
  • Growing investment in research and development.
  • Industry consolidation.

A significant increase in authorized prescribers and available products are also pulling more patients into the regulated marketplace, along with lower prices, FreshLeaf’s report notes.

“The Australian medicinal cannabis market continues its strong growth trajectory,” Cassandra Hunt, managing director of FreshLeaf, said in a statement.

“There’s good news for patients too, with the price of medicine continuing to fall.”

The report notes that the number of products has doubled yearly since 2018.

As of March 2021, 190 products were available for physicians to prescribe to patients.

Challenges remain, however.

“The industry has recently experienced significant supply issues with flower, driven by an anecdotally reported increase in demand, supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, and regulatory delays in major exports to the local market from Canada,” according to the report.

This year could see significant improvements in the regulatory regime for medical cannabis, FreshLeaf said, but it questions whether the reforms are coming fast enough.

“While the regulatory environment continues to evolve, questions have been raised about the pace at which the industry is moving forward, with concerns that if regulatory frameworks continue to change slowly Australia may miss its opportunity to become the gateway to the medicinal cannabis industry in Asia,” the report notes.

Earlier this month, the Australian government issued a response to a Senate inquiry into barriers to patient access to medicinal cannabis.

Half the Senate’s 20 recommendations were accepted in whole or in part.