Cannoperations, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cann Group Ltd., has become the first company to be granted a license to produce and cultivate medical cannabis for manufacture in Australia.
The Office of Drug Control, the country’s medical cannabis regulator, made the announcement on March 8, just weeks after the office granted Cann Group a license to grow cannabis for medical research purposes.
While licenses have been issued to state governments, these are the first granted to a commercial entity. Cann Group has not announced whether it has also applied for a manufacturing license or whether the company will provide cannabis to other manufacturers.
Last month, the Victorian state government announced that it had harvested the first crop of medical cannabis grown under the new Australian scheme. That crop was reserved to treat cases of severe childhood epilepsy. Cann Group is expected to roll out privately produced crops later this year.
Victoria-based Cann Group opened its doors in 2014. It’s currently headed by CEO Peter Crock, who joined the company from Nufarm, an agricultural chemical company. Executive Chairman Allan McCallum also hails from agriculture, having chaired several biotechnology companies.
The company has moved into the Australian marketplace rapidly. Being the first company to receive both research and commercial licenses is widely seen a coup, and according to its financial reports, the business has already acquired half a million dollars’ worth of plants and equipment.
In addition to growing cannabis for research purposes, Cann Group has also indicated it will supply other researchers with its cannabis crop. It has already executed agreements in plant genetics, breeding, cultivation, extraction, analysis, and production techniques.
The Office of Drug Control has made clear that licensed medical cannabis production is intended solely to supply Australia’s domestic market. “To ensure that sufficient product is available to address the needs of Australian patients, export of domestically grown cannabis or medicinal cannabis products will not be permitted at this time,” the agency said in a recent update.
For now, growers and producers will have to find markets at home for their legal medical cannabis. They’ll also need to prove to the Office of Drug Control that they have a contract with a manufacturer to buy the cannabis they plan to grow, and only grow as much as the terms of their permit allows.
The country previously eased restrictions on cannabis imports in order to increase supply, which had been far outpaced by patient demand.
The ODC claims its scheme is already giving doctors “greater treatment choices.” But for patients waiting for access to safe, affordable products, incremental advancements like these can seem frustratingly slow.