Leaders from the medicinal cannabis industry met in Adelaide this week to discuss the future of the drug in Australia.
The Future of Medicinal Cannabis symposium, organised by medicinal cannabis producer LeafCann Group, featured national and global speakers discussing the challenges and opportunities of the emerging industry.
LeafCann founder and chief executive Elisabetta Faenza said South Australia could be a world leader in the sector, which was estimated to be worth US$7.7 billion in 2016 by market research firm Brightfield Group.
“Being able to lead in the production and the development of medicinal cannabis is somewhere that South Australia can really shine,” she said.
“Our vision is to establish South Australia as the centre of excellence for education, research, industry innovation and development for the global cannabis sector.”
Australia currently relies on imported medicinal cannabis products to meet patient demands.
“We expect the Australian medicinal cannabis market to be worth more than $1 billion by 2025,” Faenza said.
One of the challenges addressed at the conference was the need for more clinical trials on the symptomatic benefits of cannabis-based medicines.
Faenza said the advanced medical research facilities in South Australia provide excellent opportunities in this area.
“The ability of places like the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) to have collaborative research is a big advantage, this means that Adelaide could really take a lead not only in Australia but globally in the development of cannabis-based medicines,” she said.
South Australian Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni, a keynote speaker at the conference, said the business opportunities for medicinal cannabis extend far beyond cultivation.
“It’s not just about growing cannabis, but more about South Australia being perfectly placed to engage in the sophisticated production, processing, manufacturing and commercialisation of a pharmaceutical-grade product,” he said.
“Our state has the right blend of strengths in advanced horticulture, research and specialised manufacturing to have a real competitive advantage in this space.”
Legislation that permits the legal cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes was passed in Australia in February 2016.
Pisoni said South Australia should have access to an optimal range of treatments and services to promote the best health outcomes for patients and the community.
“There is significant public interest and support for the medicinal use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products arising from reports of symptomatic benefit in a range of medical conditions,” he said.
“The state government supports the development of this industry within the existing Commonwealth regulatory framework and licencing regime.”
Access to cannabis-based medicines in Australia remains limited, with medical prescriptions involving a lengthy application process to obtain Commonwealth and relevant state approvals.
The South Australian government launched a simplified online application for medical professionals in April last year, aimed at streamlining the approval process for drug prescription.
LeafCann Group has launched its subsidiary Alchemy Bioservices to oversee the training and management of the emerging medicinal cannabis workforce in Australia.