FEB 06, 2018 07:00 AM PST

Medical Cannabis Down Under!

Australia is quickly joining the ranks of countries beginning to more widely accept the use of cannabis for medical treatment purposes. Australian cultivation of medical marijuana has been legal since October 2016 but now, as medical demand grows, importing and exporting was approved in 2017. Multiple companies have begun making footholds in the market including the Cann Group Ltd., Canopy Growth, Lexaria Bioscience, GW Pharmaceuticals, Bod Australia, and AusCann to name a few.  Each of the companies is investing in the cannabis marketplace for Australia, both in research and in distribution and/or production to meet demand.

Weed Edibles; Photo Source: Green Door WestFor example, Lexaria Bioscience received approval for their patented DehytraTech technology in Australia as a method for improving the rate of absorption and cannabinoid molecular action for the edible cannabis market. They hold a similar patent in the United States.

Early last year (Feb 2017) the Cann Group Ltd. was the first organization granted a license in Australia to legally grow and research medical cannabis. In a media release, Cann Group Chairman Allan McAllam stated, “The licence allows us to apply for a permit to progress our research and development programs, which are particularly focused on the breeding, cultivation, extraction and characterisation of cannabinoids. It will also mean we can further discussions we have underway with a number of leading Australian research and technology organisations to access additional expertise and resources. We are putting in place the building blocks to ensure we have industry-leading research, cultivation and manufacturing capabilities. This will position us to eventually provide Australians with access to innovative and high quality medicinal cannabis treatments."

Epidiolex is a cannabidiol based drug being studied for its benefits in reducing epileptic seizures in conditions where traditional anti-seizure medications have not proven effective. GW Pharmaceuticals, makers of Epidiolex, studied its efficacy through advanced clinical trials in Australia as far back as late 2015, far earlier than others entering the market today.  GW Pharma’s cannabinoid product is currently focused on severe, orphan, treatment-resistant epilepsy; it is currently in FDA authorized clinical trials in the United States. 

Bod Australia, a skincare and cosmetics company in Australia, was granted an import license for medical cannabis products in New South Wales with intents on commencing clinical trials for a proprietary sublingual cannabis extract; according to AusCann, representatives have claimed they are the first organization in Australia to have procured all available licenses related to the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis products.

It is noteworthy news that Australia is yet another country, along with parts of the US, Canada, Netherlands, France, and others, to accept and even legalize some or all uses of cannabis; however, I wonder what new countries (or states) will follow suit in legalizing one or both medical or recreational cannabis. I predict that 2018 will be a year of many cannabis science developments across the globe.

I studied abroad in Australia and it is an incredible country; rich with culture, history, and now blooming growth in the areas of science and research of medicinal cannabis. It is with great interest that I will be watching this topic as it unfolds, in Australia and elsewhere.

About the Author
  • Mauri S. Brueggeman is a Medical Laboratory Scientist and Educator with a background in Cytogenetics and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. She has worked in the clinical laboratory, taught at the University of Minnesota, and been in post secondary healthcare education administration. She is passionate about advances and leadership in science, medicine, and education.
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