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Growing Demand Drives Flurry of Aussie–Israeli Cannabis Partnerships

(Cecilie_Arcurs/iStock)

An Israeli company will partner with an Australian one to help boost clinical education opportunities around medical cannabis. The two companies, iCAN: Israel-Cannabis and Melbourne-based LeafCann have announced a joint-venture to collaborate on a range of initiatives including medicinal cannabis research, product development, and education.

The venture will be called iCAN: Australia, and, according to LeafCann Group CEO Jaroslav Boublik, the companies will “develop global clinical education initiatives to bridge the gap between public demand and practitioner education.”

Despite significant interest in medical cannabis in Australia, a slow rollout and onerous application process has frustrated patients seeking access to treatment. Nationwide, only 41 patients in the country have been prescribed medical cannabis through an authorized prescriber.

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With the move, LeafCann becomes the latest of several Australian medical cannabis companies to partner with Israeli firms and researchers. MMJ Phytotech has a license agreement with the Israeli Yissum Research Development Co. as well as research links with Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. And on the education front, the Israeli cannabis start-up accelerator Cann10 recently announced that it will be running Australia’s first medical school course on cannabis at Deakin University.

For iCAN: Australia’s part, the joint venture will develop educational programs within Australia’s Registered Training Organisation framework. According to an iCAN spokesperson, that means it will be eligible for healthcare workers’ required continuing professional development credits, will be endorsed by medical colleges and the government, and will also be tax deductible for medical professionals to attend.

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The programs, meant to address what’s seen as dearth of formal medical cannabis education opportunities in the country, “are designed by highly credentialed medical educators and will provide training that contributes to recognised professional certification and diplomas for Medical Practitioners including GPs, specialists, nurse practitioners, nurses, aged care workers and pharmacists,” spokesperson Daniel Goldstein said in a statement. “We will look to take this curriculum outside of Australia as well and become qualified for continuing education credits in different geographies.”

Education is just one focus of the partnership, which will also “bring world-class cannabis products to the Australian market” according to Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN: Israel-Cannabis. That’s about as specific as the companies have been on the product front. The joint venture has tight-lipped so far, saying only that “Our products will cover a range of indications and are being prioritized according to the state of the clinical science, critical demand and regulatory limitations.”

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Although it isn’t growing cannabis yet, the Australian half of the partnership, LeafCann, has already submitted licences for cultivation, manufacturing and R&D in Victoria, and it plans to seek licenses for further operations in Tasmania. If Australia decides to allow medical cannabis exports—as the Office of Drug Control has signaled it will—the joint venture will look to offer its products globally.

As regulations settle and ease in Australia, partnerships like that of iCAN: Australia are likely to become more common as companies in Israel, a cannabis R&D leader, aims to capitalize on a growing industry in Australia. In update delivered last week, Bill Turner, the head of Australia’s Office of Drug Control, said that 90 manufacturing and processing license applications had been received. Although the government has been accepting applications since November 2016, almost a third of all applications received so far have been submitted in the past month and a half.

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The crush of activity suggests that despite ongoing regulatory uncertainty and the volatility of cannabis penny stocks, the Australian medical cannabis industry is still attracting eager investment.