Why a medical cannabis pioneer is moving to the North Coast
A company recently granted the first licence in NSW to produce large amounts of medicinal cannabis oil is moving its headquarters to the Byron Shire.
CEO and founder of Australian Natural Therapeutics Group, Matt Cantelo, has already moved his own life to the region and will soon be followed by his head office team.
This will place the company much closer to its growing plant near Armidale.
"I think Byron Bay and the Northern area in general has established itself globally as a place of health and wellness," Mr Cantelo said.
He said ANTG was looking to potentially expand its operational work within the local region.
"We are looking at opportunities locally," he said.
"We operate predominantly in regional areas and we plan on expanding that."
He said the company currently has about 60 staff, 40 of them working regionally.
ANTG late last year became one of just a handful of businesses in Australia permitted to produce commercial medicinal cannabis oil.
Since medical cannabis became legal - with a prescription - many have bemoaned the difficulty in accessing the scheme and cost of legal, usually imported, product.
Mr Cantelo said there are challenges for such a new industry, but he hopes to make products more accessible to patients.
"Even though the plant is ancient the industry is fairly new," Mr Cantelo said.
"It's in its infancy, really."
He said this meant companies had to lay down "a lot of capital expenditure" to get the ball rolling.
"The industry has been spending lots of money to establish itself," he said.
Early on, if you're accessing legal, commercially-produced medical cannabis in Australia, it was probably from Canada or The Netherlands, he said.
"We're filling that gap with more affordable products," he said.
"It is expensive, currently.
"It's probably in line with black market prices or a little higher.
"We're trying to drive the cost down as best we can.
"We're producing large scale quantities out of our facility in New England, up to 3 tonnes a year of dried flower."
He said they had been supplying the patient market for four months and their product is being exported to Germany.