27 Apr 2016

The business case for medicinal cannabis

From Nine To Noon, 9:38 am on 27 April 2016

A new study by Sydney University estimates that a medical cannabis industry in Australia could earn the country more than $100 million a year.

Australia's federal parliament recently passed laws allowing seriously ill people to access medicinal cannabis - and allowing it to be grown for medical and scientific purposes.

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Photo: AFP

The New Zealand government is currently reviewing the guidelines on applications for medical cannabis in this country.

Michael Katz at the University of Sydney business school said the paper was the first of its kind to examine the financial as well as the potential medicinal benefits of a local medicinal cannabis industry for Australia.

He said the $100 million figure represented possible current demand for medical cannabis and did not factor in increased future use or export earnings.

The study drew on data from a number of existing markets including those in Israel, Canada and Netherlands. The report was produced in partnership with medical cannabis company MGC Pharmaceuticals, one of many involved in the emerging industry.

As Mr Katz said cannabis should be treated the same as any other medicine in terms of efficacy and safety.

"People get given different opiates to use as pain killers, no one's looking at the fact that someone's using the same source for heroin for example.

"It's very much a medical drug. What we want to see with medical cannabis is that it goes through the same medical processes as any drug and is treated on its merits."

The report also found that up to 51,000 square metres of greenhouse space - almost three times the size of the Sydney Cricket Ground - would be needed to produce the amount of cannabis required to meet demand.
"There's a lot more to a new industry like medical cannabis than you might immediately think. You've got the technical agriculture side of it, the medical processes such as extraction and dosage, the technology side such as scalable standardisation tools, supply chain logistics and so on," Mr Katz said.