Pharma is looking to the North Coast for farming opportunities as new laws kick in today allowing licences for medicinal cannabis cultivation.
Pharma is looking to the North Coast for farming opportunities as new laws kick in today allowing licences for medicinal cannabis cultivation. Lumineux_Images

Apply for your dope-growing licence today

PHARMACUETICAL companies are looking to the North Coast for opportunities as new laws kick in on Sunday for the licencing of medicinal cannabis cultivation.

One the first ASX-listed medicinal cannabis companies, MGC Pharmaceuticals, is applying for Office of Drug Control licence and confirmed it's considering the northern rivers for its farming operations.

MGC strategic advisory board chairman Dr Ross Walker said the North Coast was an ideal location to cultivate medicinal marijuana for medical trials of cannabis.

"It's a good growing site, it has a history of growing marijuana, and of course we're looking for sites for growing marijuana where there is good chance the site will be secure and we're looking to link up with local horticulturists,” Dr Walker said.

"We already have a legal medicinal cannabis plantation in Slovenia, and two of our board members are from Israel where medicinal cannabis is well established and we hope to grow it in Australia.

Cardiologist, health advocate and pharmaceutical company board chairman Dr Ross Walker.
Cardiologist, health advocate and pharmaceutical company board chairman Dr Ross Walker. Contributed

"I have been travelling to the North Coast and Byron Bay at least four times a year - it is my most favourite place on the planet and I certainly hope it is a place where proper medical grade cannabis can be cultivated.”

Dr Walker said cannabis is unlikely to be made available to patients any earlier than 2018, with extensive medical testing required before it's proven to be safe and effective.

"I think it's a tragedy that people have to obtain cannabis illegally to use it for conditions they're not getting help with through traditional methods,” Dr Walker said.

"What (those people) are doing is illegal, as far as the Government is concerned, and what we're tyring to do is make sure it's legal and people are getting good quality pharmacy grade medicinal cannabis.”

Dr Walker said there was ample anecdotal and open label research suggesting cannabis was effective for alzheimer's, cancer, epilepsy and palliative care, and that it had minor side effects compared to conventional medicine.

"There's some early work, mainly in animals, showing cannabis can be used to reduce the spread and growth of cancer, and there's been good reports from using cannabis for chronic pain,” Dr Walker said.

"What we need is randomised control studies - the gold standard in medicine - to make sure it's safe and effective and that's what these plantations will be used for initially.

"My company will be supplying major hospitals to do trials.”

Earlier this year, the Federal Parliament lent bipartisan support to changes to the Narcotic Drugs Act to allow cannabis to be legally grown and produced for medicinal purposes. This regulatory change comes into effect today.

While non-medicinal cannabis will still be legal, cannabis products intended for therapeutic use will be added to the Schedule 8 list of drugs - the same list that includes opiate-based drugs such as morphine.

At the same time, the Office of Drug Control will begin accepting applications for licenses to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal cannabis is coming to Australians.
Medicinal cannabis is coming to Australians. ABIR SULTAN

Will medicinal cannabis be smoked?

It is very unlikely that any medicinal cannabis in Australia will take the form of smokable plant material.

Australian authorities have so far only shown a supportive stance towards pharmaceutical-style products created with cannabis extracts, such as oils and pills.

It is almost certain that many strict measures will be put into place to ensure that recreational cannabis is not created by the medicinal cannabis industry.

Will medicinal cannabis be available right away?

It could take several more years before it is commonly available to patients.

Each state and territory will also need to agree upon its own stance towards the cultivation and prescribing of medicinal cannabis within its borders.

NSW, QLD, ACT and Victoria have already introduced complementary regulations to allow for the growing and prescribing of medicinal cannabis.

Today they were joined by the Western Australian government, which said it had changed its stance on medicinal cannabis and will now move to support it.

- More details about the different kinds of medicinal cannabis licences on the ODC website here: https://www.odc.gov.au/medicinal-cannabis

Medicinal cannabis is coming to Australians.
Medicinal cannabis is coming to Australians. The Northern Star


How beers around the campfire led to this very cool business

premium_icon How beers around the campfire led to this very cool business

They left their council and construction jobs to follow a dream

Kevin Hogan reveals personal turmoil after crossbench move

premium_icon Kevin Hogan reveals personal turmoil after crossbench move

"I've had a lot of phone calls with people who are very upset"

'This will be huge': New show like a theme park ride

premium_icon 'This will be huge': New show like a theme park ride

"You'll come out saying, 'what did I just see?'”

Local Partners