Tasmania Some Simple Numbers: Opioid Deaths, Opioid Production & Virtual Monopoly On Medical Cannabis Production

We read this ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) report yesterday documenting accidental prescription and other drug deathes in the Australian island state over the past 5 years.

The report shows the number of overdoses was significantly higher than between 2004 and 2008 when 147 Tasmanians died of unintentional overdoses.

One particular number struck us ……

• 47 unintentional overdose deaths involving pharmaceutical opioids such as oxycodone and codeine in the five years from 2014-18, compared with 38 in the five years from 2004 to 2008

Why do we fixate on this statistic.

Because of this Tasmanian based company

Tasmanian Alkaloids

Tasmanian Alkaloids is the largest opium poppy processing company in the Australian state of Tasmania.[1] Approximately forty percent of the world’s legal opiate crop is grown in Tasmania.[2] Tasmanian Alkaloids is a subsidiary of the United States pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson,[3] but was formerly—as of 1980—a subsidiary of Abbott Laboratories.[4]
The company patented a poppy variety called “Norman” which was stated, in the 1999 Tasmanian Alkaloids Poppy Grower’s Bulletin to be the first variety lacking morphine and codeine, while still containing thebaine and oripavine. This variety went into commercial production in 1998. The company’s processing plant is in Westbury, a town west of Launceston in the State’s north.[5] The company is licensed by both the Australian federal and state governments to carry out its opiate processing work.[4]

At the Tasmanian Alkaloids site their take is somewhat different, unsurprisingly….


Why do we highlight this?

Firstly as the ABC reports….

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council chief executive Alison Lai said it was not illicit drugs behind the majority of the overdoses, but rather wrongly taken or mixed prescription drugs.

“Obviously, when people think about overdose they might be thinking more about the illicit substances like heroin and, yes, I think probably in the past 10 years we may have seen, my understanding is, about one overdose of heroin here in the state but not much more than that — and the whole majority have come from those prescription medications.”

Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2020 painted a concerning picture of overdose in Tasmania and of a state struggling to come to terms with increasing use of several different types of drugs.

The report shows the number of overdoses was significantly higher than between 2004 and 2008 when 147 Tasmanians died of unintentional overdoses.

“Tasmania faces real challenges when it comes to drug use and overdose,” Mr Ryan said.


Here at CLR we might humbly draw the connection between the state government giving support to an industry that by degrees is also responsible for the death of some of its citizens.


Secondly as Tasmanian Alkaloids mention on their website (and the screenshot above) they are now moving into medical cannabis production.

Here at CLR we believe that allowing TA to produce both opioids and medical cannabis so that both are lumped in the same basket seems to verge on immorality and smacks of favoured government backroom deals.

It isn’t as though Tasmania doesn’t have a great organic farming culture and plenty of producers who could equally well produce top quality medical cannabis.

We’d even suggest that the Tasmanian government  fund the build out of a cannabis / hemp processing plant that could  be run as a co-operative that Tasmanian farmers could if they wish have a stake in and grow great cannabis and or hemp and pool resources to process medical cannabis and industrial hemp for export worldwide

An approach like this would benefit farmers, benefit the rural community and amongst other things allow Tasmania to develop a terroir ( terroir in cannabis is we assure you the next big development in the sector) for cannabis that would be matched by few around the world .

On the other hand you could just hand everything to Jonson & Johnson create a few jobs and let the multinational rake in the cash and hand it out to their shareholders.


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