Australian cannabis industry could make $1.5b per year
Australia risks losing a billion dollar industry if medicinal cannabis is not correctly regulated, an industry report has warned.
The report, published by FreshLeaf Analytics, forecasts Australia's medicinal cannabis industry will double in size from $100m to $200m by the end of the year.
Currently there are about 45,000 people accessing medicinal cannabis legally in Australia but this will likely reach 75,000 patients by the end of 2021, according to the report.
Medicinal cannabis patients have complained about excessive costs to access the drug through legal channels - with the average patient spending $359 per month.
The report forecasts that if medicinal cannabis is made more accessible it could generate $1.5 billion each year.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 revealed that 600,000 Australians are believed to be illegally accessing cannabis for a medicinal purpose.
The same study said that the average spend on illegal medicinal cannabis was $50 per week.
A report by FreshLeaf Analytics explained that transitioning the illegal market, called the green market, to legal methods could result in a $1.5 billion industry emerging.
"It is anticipated that most of those who have been accessing low-dose CBD through these channels (the green market) will transition to pharmacies. This shines a light on impending challenges for green market operators as patient access to medicinal cannabis becomes
easier and more convenient, and there is a sizeable market at stake," it said.
"The reported median spend on illicit cannabis was $50 per week. Applying this spend to
both the legal and illegal patients groups across a year would indicate total market revenue today could be as high as $1.5B per year.
"The test for the legal industry is transitioning as many of these patients who are still accessing medicinal cannabis illegally to legal channels."
An industry source told The Daily Telegraph they do not expect the transition to happen quickly.
"There is a distrust in the community about the product that is sold by the large pharmaceutical companies," he said.
"It is different to a lot of other industries or communities but these people who access cannabis illegally have often been made fun of by traditional doctors or health professionals for wanting to use cannabis."
"Health professionals still have a stigma about the drug and I struggle to see how this would change quickly and have them prescribing it to people who have been taking it for years."
The report also warned that if government regulations around the drug are not changed - which make is more accessible for prescribing and patient access - Australia could miss out on the billion dollar industry.
"While the regulatory environment continues to evolve, questions have been raised about the pace at which the industry is moving forward, with concerns that if regulatory frameworks continue to change slowly
Australia may miss its opportunity to become the gateway to the medicinal cannabis industry in Asia," it said.
"Australia has much to gain from taking a pharmaceutical approach to medicinal cannabis although it brings with it the challenge of balancing pharmaceutical rigour with speed so that the industry matures in strides."
Originally published as Australian cannabis industry could make $1.5b per year