Australian patients to come first as gov't allows exports of cannabis-based medicines

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Cannabis Australia
Droplets of oil form on the surface of a Cannabis plant in a state-owned agricultural farm in Rovigo, about 60 km (40 miles) from Venice, September 22, 2014. Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

A significant boost is about to happen to Australia's medicinal cannabis market with the federal government having high ambitions for the industry. It is set to allow exports of cannabis-based medicines, and assured that Aussie patients will be prioritised. 

Currently, there are regulations that prevent the exports of medicinal cannabis products. Those regulations will undergo changes, a move that seeks to create a larger market for medicines produced here.

It is being viewed as a wise business move, with ambitions for the country to become world’s biggest producer of medicinal cannabis products. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the changes are actually a significant step for Australia’s domestic patients and domestic supply.

"We would like to be, potentially, the world's number one medicinal cannabis supplier," Hunt said, according to the ABC. He added being aware that they have an Aussie market and a global market boosts the likelihood of growing and production.

In 2016, the federal government legalised patient access to locally grown and manufactured medicinal cannabis. That was subject to state and territory regulations.

The first Australian state to legalise cannabis for medical purposes was Victoria. New South Wales followed suit.

Anthony Albanese, the opposition frontbencher, described the changes as a “sensible move forward” for Australia. “We know that medicinal use of cannabis can alleviate people’s health issues and, therefore, if Australia’s in a position to provide support, it should do so,” he has told reporters in Melbourne.

Australian patients come first

The health minister assured the medical community there was “now no real government barriers at all to accessing medicinal cannabis.” There could be "more than enough" for Aussie patients and international consumers.

Among the conditions of licences for export, Hunt said, is that medicinal cannabis be made available to Australian consumers first. He maintained that the sector is supportive of that and cited a "progressive increase" in prescriptions.

According to the federal health department, up to 350 patients have accessed locally grown medicinal cannabis products. There are some concerns, however, that doctors are hesitant to prescribe the products.

Hunt defended these doctors, saying it was “understandable” many were reluctant to prescribe a drug that has just been approved. But he assured they are working along with the College of GPs and Australian Medical Association to ensure that doctors have access to full information so they can ensure the best interest of patients. Since Parliament passed laws allowing its use, the number of patients being prescribed medicinal cannabis has been limited.

ABC News/YouTube