Medical marijuana was rescheduled for therapeutic use in Australia in 2016 and since then, the industry has seen triple-digit growth. It is now projected to be the biggest growth market for medical marijuana in the world with many international investors lining up to be part of the process.
New legislation passed by the Senate earlier this month improved access to global markets for local producers of hemp and medicinal cannabis. But it is an upcoming proposal that has exciting prospects for internal growth and consumer accessibility. This proposal, expected to be made effective in February next year, could see the reclassification of Cannabidiol (CBD) as an over-the-counter medicine. At present, medical marijuana is considered Australia’s fastest-growing industry. When low-dose CBD products are reclassified as expected, industry players are expected to jump in with a line of new products. This will provide an unprecedented fillip to the medical marijuana industry in Australia and this is good news for patients of chronic pain and other ailments for which medicinal cannabis is used as a treatment option.
The Growth of Medical Marijuana in Australia spells good news for patients
With the current levels of interest in the growth potential for the medical marijuana industry, the biggest beneficiaries are of course patients. Let us examine some of the developments that could benefit consumers of medical marijuana in the days ahead.
Impact of COVID-19
The medical marijuana industry is one of the few that remains largely unshaken by the current pandemic. Around 7300 prescriptions for medicinal cannabis were approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) during the March-April period which was significantly higher than in the immediately preceding period. Many cannabis clinics are now considering the expansion of telemedicine facilities, especially in light of the social distancing norms that are now in place. This improves the chances for seamless access for patients dependent on medicinal cannabis to manage their medical conditions.
Next-generation medical cannabis
There is growing interest at present in the prospects for Cannabigerol (CBG) another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has immense potential in the treatment of glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and skin diseases. Like CBD, CBG also has anti-inflammatory properties, helps in pain control, and in combating nausea. The buzz around this strain could mean a wider range of options for patients in the coming days. Ongoing research aims to explore the therapeutic benefits of CBG more thoroughly to provide far more options in treatment.
Price wars on products
At present, monthly user rates for medical marijuana in Australia is growing at an average of 8%. Also, from the less than 100 products that were available in December, over 130 products are now available for consumers. As a consequence of these rising numbers in patients and products, there has been a 17.5% reduction in prices in the market between September 2019 and now. Competitive pricing and entry of newer products will only go up in the coming days and this could mean a significant change in the relatively high prices that now prevail. With the reclassification of CBD-only products as over-the-counter medication, there could be extraordinary levels of plummeting in prices.
More research to prove the efficacy of treatment
One of the biggest challenges faced by the medical marijuana industry is its continuing association with addiction and myths surrounding its use in treatment. The fact that it has been used since ancient times did not aid in its being considered a serious option in modern medicine. It was also classified as a prohibited drug under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961. In recent times, with several countries legalising the use of medicinal cannabis and several more set to follow suit, there has been increasing demand for scientific evidence to bolster its therapeutic potential. With more research to back up claims, legislatures will also be inclined to implement much-needed reform that will improve accessibility for patients.
Affordability and bureaucratic hurdles are the biggest challenges faced by consumers in legal access to medical marijuana in Australia. But step-by-step, radical changes are expected to transform the nascent industry into one that is truly beneficial to both the producers and consumers.