Victoria Unveils Medical Cannabis Industry Development Strategy

Medicinal cannabis in Victoria
Image: Victorian Government

The Australian state of Victoria’s Andrews Labor Government says its newly unveiled Development Strategy, claimed to be an Australian first, will assist in transforming the state’s medicinal cannabis industry into an established sector.

“This is the birth of a new and emerging industry right here in Victoria and that means more jobs for our state – while we break new ground every day,” said Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford.

The strategy (PDF) sets an ambitious goal of Victoria supplying half of Australia’s medicinal cannabis by 2028 and creating up to 500 jobs along the supply chain; from cultivation through to sales.

But how much cannabis will Australia need? Not a great deal unless access is greatly increased.

Compassionate Access Scheme “Expansion”

Also announced on Wednesday was what the government called a “significant” expansion of its early compassionate access scheme.

An imported medicine offered to 29 children with severe intractable epilepsy will be expanded to cover 60 children.

While it’s great more children will gain access, “significant” is probably a very optimistic way to describe the expansion unless you’re basing it only on percentage growth.

However, Victoria isn’t Robinson Crusoe in this regard.

There’s been a great deal of buzz about Australia’s medical cannabis progress and it was recently announced exports will be permitted, but the truth is – at this stage – these medicines simply aren’t getting into the hands of many Australians who may benefit from them. This is primarily due to red tape and cost.

It’s little wonder then that many patients are still turning to other channels for supply, risking issues relating to quality and of course, legal implications.

On the issue of cost, the Victorian Government recognises it is a problem and has called on a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing of medicinal cannabis products.

“We urge the Turnbull Government to move quickly so that this life changing product is affordable and in-reach for every Australian – not just those who can afford it,” said Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.

Last year, Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick also requested cannabis medicines be supported through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said only Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved medicines can be added to the PBS.

Agriculture Victoria And Canopy Growth Deal

Also on Wednesday, it was announced a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between Victorian Agriculture and Canada’s Canopy Growth Corporation had been signed, with view to further developing research and technical capabilities in the production of medical cannabis in Australia.

“Working with global leaders like Canopy Growth on cultivation and production will build Victoria’s capacity to develop an industry capable of supplying reliable and high quality medical cannabis products to treat a range of conditions in approved patients,” said Minister Pulford.

Prior to this announcement, Canopy Growth (TSE: WEED) already had a foot in the door in Australia. In September last year, it was announced Canopy Growth will act as AusCann’s (ASX: AC8) exclusive supplier of medical cannabis for the Australian market.