Australia Wants To Be The World’s Biggest Supplier Of MMJ
Pacific nations slow to catch up on MMJ, but there’s progress being made.
Australia has just announced that they want in on the projected $55 billion global cannabis market while improving domestic supply. To achieve this goal, Australia will be exporting medicinal cannabis for the first time in history.
Greg Hunt, Australia’s Health Minister, disclosed that they want to expand the current Australian cannabis cultivation and production by means of global exports. “Our goal is very clear, to give farmers and producers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal cannabis.”
Hunt also added that the decision to ship cannabis beyond its borders are meant to benefit Australian MMJ patients, since they are the focus of this program. “This is actually a very important step for our domestic patients and our domestic supply,” Hunt said. “By knowing they have an Australian market and an international market, that improves the likelihood of growing and production in Australia.”
What prompted this move from the Australian government is the sheer lack of medicinal cannabis domestically. “While the Australian patient base is growing, it is very small,” says Peter Crock, CEO of Cann Group, an Australian cannabis cultivator. “Being able to export will allow us to have the scale to increase production.”
In order to take part in the export opportunity, Australia’s licensed producers will be required to first meet the demands in their own market before being given the chance to export the surplus of their crop. And for this measure to become a reality, it will need to be approved in Parliament once they return in February this year. It is expected that the move will be quickly approved since the Labor Party, the main opposition, has mentioned that they are supporting the change. Exports can begin within a few months once the process has been completed.
There is an increasing global demand for cannabis, but as of the moment, only Canada, Uruguay, and the Netherlands are exporting cannabis. Israel is expected to join them, but the date still remains up in the air.
New Zealand Government Loosens MMJ Regulations
Meanwhile, Australia’s neighbor New Zealand is also making moves to make it easier for patients to use medical cannabis but the changes leave a lot to be desired. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health recommended not to prosecute chronic pain patients for using medical cannabis, since it would only result in legal consequences later on.
The advice was included in an impact statement released last year by the Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which states that terminally ill patients can use illegal cannabis without facing the risk for prosecution while the government works on developing a comprehensive prescribing plan. However, this flexibility wasn’t extended to those in chronic pain, which resulted in a backlash from many advocates saying that the bill hasn’t been inclusive enough.
Additionally, the impact statement says that decriminalizing patients will be an issue. “Chronic pain is difficult to define, subjective, and would potentially cover a large patient group. Extending this proposal to this group would be likely to result in significant dispute around the definition of chronic pain.” According to Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell, the provision for those terminally ill which is defined as a person who is expecting their life to end in 12 months, is too narrow. “A one-year window simply does not go far enough to cover people with chronic pain and any terminal illness, and needs to be reconsidered by the select committee.”
New Zealand Health Minister David Clark says that the bill, which was introduced by the end of last month, was already a compassionate move that would help make sure no one was prosecuted while they work on new prescription guidelines. The new framework would include minimum quality standards which, according to the Ministry of Health, is preferred compared to a voluntary scheme. Additionally, the bill doesn’t decriminalize patients who also grow their own medicine, nor those who supply patients with cannabis.
There are currently only two MMJ products available in New Zealand. To prescribe them, doctors need to apply to the Ministry of Health and these prescriptions aren’t subsidized by the government.
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