Australia to become the largest medicinal cannabis exporter

Richard Laycock 5 January 2018 NEWS

Female scientist in a hemp field checking plants and flowers, alternative herbal medicine concept

Will opening the export market help Aussies access medicinal cannabis?

The Turnbull Government announced on 4 January 2018 that it would allow the exportation of medicinal cannabis, an important step in the development of the medicinal cannabis sector and should help both Aussie farmers and patients hoping to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Minister Greg Hunt hopes that opening up the export market will boost the domestic market.

"By having an export product and an export market, we provide additional security for potential Australian producers, and in so doing, what that means is that we secure supplies for Australian domestic patients, because, under the new regulations, they will have first right of access," Minister Hunt told reporters at a doorstop in Mt Martha.

Minister Hunt said that the Government's goal is, "to give Australian farmers and manufacturers the best shot at being the world’s number one exporter of medicinal cannabis."

The announcement has already lead to a surge in share prices for companies in Australia that cultivate medicinal cannabis.

But what does this mean for Aussie patients?

Hunt said that the Government is trying to make it easier for doctors to access medicinal cannabis. However, while doctors can apply to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis, many patients are still having trouble accessing it. President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Michael Gannon addressed this at a doorstop in Perth.

"I think a lot of doctors would be wary about the prescription of medicinal cannabis... Doctors think very carefully about the risks, benefits, putting all the considerations together, whether they're recommending surgery, prescription of pharmaceuticals on or off the PBS, or new options like medicinal cannabis," Gannon said.

This hesitance to prescribe medicinal marijuana would explain the low number of patients that have accessed Australian grown medicinal marijuana. Hunt said that so far only somewhere around 300 patients have access the product.

"The real issue now is that many doctors, and I absolutely agree with this and understand this, are cautious about the impacts of a new product," he said.

Currently, doctors in Australia can only provide medicinal cannabis to patients suffering from a handful of ailments including AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer's and anxiety and depression. It's hoped that clinical trials for ailments such as insomnia will open the door for a larger scope of conditions treated with medicinal marijuana.

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