By Nick Wallis
Earlier this year, I spoke with Tom Forrest who was awarded the first-ever Churchill Fellowship for cannabis agronomy in 2018.
Despite the fact that parts of Australia are ideally suited to cannabis cultivation and that we have an enormous talent pool of cannabis growing expertise there are very few local producers approved to supply the medicinal market. This means higher prices for patients, difficulty securing supply and ultimately leads many patients to return to the black or grey market for their medicine.
Tom talks about some of the hurdles, “In honesty, there are so many delays from the federal government and the Office of Drug Control. You’re looking at anywhere between two to three years for a federal license to cultivate. Delays at a bureaucratic level make it extremely hard for people to start cultivating, find genetics, go through the “fit and proper person” testing and so on. We have a lot of passionate cannabis farmers currently operating under hemp licenses, but they’re not able to use that product to cater for the medicinal market.”
CBD products are also bureaucratically hampered from broader availability. Any company wishing to sell a CBD product must first gain approval from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), requiring extensive clinical trial data. The cost and resources involved with this process mean only a small number of wealthy companies are able to move forward with approval.
The continued prohibition of cannabis in most forms and heavy regulation in other forms means even those with the skills and desire to get into this business and help plug desperate local demand are often unable to do so.
“If you have any relation to anyone that’s ever had issues with cannabis crime then you’re almost immediately eliminated from working in the legitimate cannabis sector, we have requirements on business structure and you have to be able to prove that you have certain amounts of money in a bank account you have to really show that you’re almost a public company that’s funded by the pharmaceutical space,” noted Tom.
More law reform is needed, especially decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis, to bring down the burdensome bureaucratic hurdles, lower prices for patients and meet Australia’s demand for this vital medicine.
(This interview was broadcast as part of the Entheogenesis Australis (EGA) microdose webcasts, taking place on the last Wednesday of every month on their YouTube channel. We thank EGA for their informative work. Find out more: https://gardenstates.entheogenesis.org/webcast/)