Medicinal cannabis industry welcomes extended government support

Medicinal cannabis industry welcomes extended government support

The Federal Government has promised to support major medicinal cannabis projects to the delight of the sector.

Under the plan, medicinal cannabis projects that have been granted major project status (MPS) will be given priority to receive medicinal cannabis licences through the Office of Drug Control (ODC).

MPS is granted by the department of industry to projects that will make a "significant" contribution in the areas of exports, jobs and industry development, particularly in rural and regional areas.

The ODC has so far issued 69 licences to cultivate, produce or manufacture medicinal cannabis including 24 for cultivation, 16 for research and 23 for manufacturing.

In addition, the government is looking to implement recommendations from a recently completed review into the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 to simplify the administration of the medicinal cannabis scheme and remove impediments to developing the industry.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt says the government has agreed in principle to adopt all 26 of the recommendations from the independent review conducted by Professor John McMillian.

"Cutting red tape and streamlining processes will strengthen this important and evolving industry, and ensure medicinal cannabis is available to Australian patients under proper medical supervision," says Hunt.

"As part of these changes the Government will also work towards a single licence model so there will now be one application for a medicinal cannabis licence covering cultivation, production, manufacture and research activities."

According to the federal government, as of 30 June 2019, over 10,000 prescriptions have now been written in Australia for medicinal cannabis products. Approximately 7196 patients have been authorised to access a medicinal cannabis product through the Special Access and Authorised Prescriber Schemes.

Medicinal cannabis company Suda Pharmaceuticals (ASX: SUD) has welcomed the proposed changes to the regulation of the industry.

The Perth-based company has been building its infrastructure to carry out research into medicinal cannabis and now holds five licences relating to the manufacture and development of the drug.

The company signed an agreement with Zelda Therapeutics (ASX: ZLD) in December 2018 to develop an oral spray of pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid derivatives.

In June 2018 Suda signed a binding term sheet with Cann Pharmaceutical Australia (ASX: CPA) to develop and supply an oral spray of cannabinoid derivatives for the treatment of epilepsy, melanoma and motion sickness. The two parties are currently in the process of finalising the agreement.

Read more: Australia's top 20 cannabis companies

In other cannabis news, Althea (ASX: AGH) has announced that it has had a record month, with 334 new patients added in July.

In total, 1,523 patients have now been prescribed Althea medicinal cannabis products in Australia, with 245 healthcare professionals having prescribed the group's products.

The company says the rapid uptake of Althea's products is being driven by the company's strategy comprised of an on-the-ground liaison team called Althea Concierge.

Additionally, Althea says its technology platform greatly reduces application times for healthcare professionals looking to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

The group also says the increase in Therapeutic Goods Administration special access scheme category B applications in Australia has supported the company's growth.

Althea says the Australian medicinal cannabis market increased at its highest rate in July, adding 2,206 TGA category B approvals.

The cannabis company, which has its fingers in the UK market, also announced an agreement with Sydney based medicinal cannabis company Tetra today.

Tetra facilitates access to medicinal cannabis treatments across Australia and intends to assist Althea as a non-exclusive education and distribution partner of Althea's medicinal cannabis products in Australia.

Shares in Althea are up 4.12 per cent to $1.01 per share at 10.24am AEST.

Another Australian medicinal cannabis player announced a milestone agreement yesterday.

Greenfield MC entered into a joint venture yesterday with EPHS Holdings, a US-listed commercial cannabis producer with grow operations in Canada, to cultivate medicinal cannabis in Australia.

The joint venture will be oriented at exporting medicinal cannabis to Asia, which Greenfield expects to become the world's largest market for medicinal cannabis.

"EPHS has the kind of in-depth knowledge and track record that will assist us to quickly establish ourselves as leading cultivators here in Australia," says Greenfield MC CEO Nicholas Hanna.

"They have expertise in establishing state-of-the-art cultivation facilities, IP and genetics, and numerous strategic global partnerships. That leverage will allow Greenfield MC to hit the ground running when it comes to Australian cultivation. With EPHS at the helm, there will be no need to re-invent the wheel or learn on the job, and we can avoid teething and execution issues."

Cultivation under the joint venture is expected to commence in late-2020. Locations are currently being scouted for establishment of the cultivation facility, with Queensland's Sunshine Coast of particular interest due to its favourable climate and natural light-cycle.

Greenfield intends to launch a Series B investment round in late Q3 2019.

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