Alongside skyrocketing demand for medicinal cannabis, there has been growing research interest around its use, with many clinical trials trying to demonstrate its efficacy for a number of medical conditions.
Piecing together the puzzle
“CBD has very complex pharmacological action we still don’t fully understand,” McGregor says.
Complex and individual
Yet the number of medicinal cannabis users has escalated over the past five years. This year alone more than 86,000 applications have been lodged, with the number forecast to surpass 100,000 next year.
The scheme allows any GP to apply to TGA to prescribe patients cannabinoid medicines.
Last month, there were just under 10,000 approvals under the scheme, compared to 3,926 at the same time last year, according to the Department of Health.
No product has the regulatory approvals yet, so stock is unlikely to reach pharmacy shelves until at least the second half of this year.
European export opportunity
A merger of Australian-owned Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG) and Canadian-owned Asterion Cannabis Inc has hastened construction plans by up to two years, according to ANTG chief executive Matt Cantelo.
"We're seeing significant 10-20 per cent increases [in demand] month on month," Mr Cantelo said.
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Stephen Van Deventer, CEO of Asterion, said the merger with ANTG fitted its short and long-term strategies.
ANTG has an existing supply chain and facility in regional NSW, and access to European export markets.
Growers and manufacturers of medicinal cannabis also have to demonstrate the vehicles they use to transport cannabis on the roads are safe from hijackers.
"The incompleteness of evidence is due to few trials being possible around the world due to medicinal cannabis products being generally prohibited or heavily controlled in research in countries such as the US until fairly recently," a TGA spokesperson said.
Vehicles must be safe from hijackers
But that is the reality for a new breed of farmers trying their hand at medicinal cannabis, who have to make sure the crop is secure from paddock to processor.
"But if you can [invest] then it is well worth it.
A crop as precious as gold
Mr Hunt argues the tough standards are not holding the industry back, or deterring future farmers.