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Regulatory developments

Since 2016, a number of developments have occurred that demonstrate the likely development and growth of the medicinal cannabis market in Australia. 

Down scheduling of low dose CBD to a Schedule 3 drug 

The Australian Department of Health has announced a proposal to down schedule low-dose CBD to a Schedule 3 drug.
To be considered a Schedule 3 CBD product, 98% of the cannabinoid content needs to be CBD alone. That tends to rule out a lot of the less refined or more crude extracts or products.
This change would mean low-dose CBD would be available for sale over the counter in pharmacies.
Legislation changes as of Q1 2021 (1 February 2021) will allow pharmacists to sell low concentration CBD products for conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and pain. The domestic addressable patient numbers for these conditions exceed one million.

Major projects status and funding support

The government invests in cannabis research

The growing demand for medicinal cannabis products coupled with a lack of national cannabis research prompted Health Minister Greg Hunt to announce in October 2019 that the government will invest AU$3 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to examine the benefits of medicinal cannabis for pain, symptom and side-effect management for cancer patients.

One of the more well-known names to come out and help shine a light on the benefits is actress and singer Olivia Newton-John. Herself a cancer-sufferer who uses medicinal cannabis, Newton-John has been quoted in the media urging the Australian government to improve access to Medicinal cannabis for patients: ‘I absolutely believe all patients should have the right to try. It is a matter of common sense and it is a compassionate thing to do for people.’
In 2018, the Department of Health published an overview document and new clinical guidance documents for prescribers of medicinal cannabis products for treating CINV, epilepsy, MS, chronic non-cancer pain and for palliative care. The information was compiled by the Commonwealth Department of Health, in conjunction with state and territory governments, who reviewed the clinical evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis that had been published in medical journals from 1980 to early 2017.

Launch of supply chain study

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall announced, in October 2019, the launch of a research study to explore Australia’s medicinal cannabis supply chain, including improvements in ideal growing conditions and traceability. The study was the result of a collaboration between the NSW and Commonwealth governments, the Cann Group Ltd, Southern Cross University, Aglive and the University of Newcastle.
The NSW government is contributing AU$3 million to the project, while the Commonwealth government will invest a further AU$3 million through its Cooperative Research Centre Program. The other partners will contribute around AU$4 million. The study will take place at a secret research facility in NSW. The Minister for Agriculture stated: ‘Through this study, the NSW government will build on its ongoing research into the agronomic parameters for cannabis plants, and finding the ideal conditions for producing high-quality, year-round, consistent medicinal cannabis products.’

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