Victoria’s aim to be Australian ‘cannabis capital’ challenged by patient access issues

An Australian state’s ambition to be the nation’s “medical cannabis capital” is unlikely to succeed unless market access for local patients substantially improves, experts note.

Patient access to medical cannabis remains a serious concern despite marked improvements over the past year.

“The crux of the problem is, we can’t produce medical cannabis products for our market unless we enable the market (patients) to access those products,” Fiona Patten, a member of the Legislative Council for Victoria, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“Without broader patient approval, we won’t get a production industry off the ground.”

Victoria released Australia’s first-ever Medicinal Cannabis Industry Development Plan, laying out a road map for government support of the burgeoning medical cannabis industry.

The state has already attracted local and international marijuana companies and aims to supply half of Australia’s medical cannabis in the next decade.

Cronos Australia, a subsidiary of Cronos Group in Canada, announced its intention this week to locate its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Victoria, along with a research and development center and production facility.

Cannatrek, an investee of Ontario-based CannTrust Holdings, also announced an expansion of its production and manufacturing capacity in the state.

Last April, Canopy Growth said it planned to establish its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Victoria, as well as an R&D center.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration approved just over 2,800 patients throughout the country from 54 authorized prescribers as of the end of 2018.

That accounts for just 3% of the people who should qualify for medical cannabis use in the country, Patten said.

Victoria’s additional goal to be a leader in medical cannabis exports is also a “kick in the gut to very sick Victorians who could benefit from this product” but who struggle with access and prohibitive costs, Patten added.

A fully regulated medical cannabis market in Australia could have commercial opportunities worth 2.9 billion Australian dollars ($2.1 billion), according to United Kingdom-based analytics firm Prohibition Partners.

Read Victoria’s Medicinal Cannabis Industry Development Plan here.

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

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