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The Fate of Victoria’s First Legal Cannabis Crop

April 25, 2017

A year and a half ago, the state government of Victoria announced, with much fanfare, that it would cultivate a crop of cannabis for medical use. Premier Daniel Andrews called it one of his proudest days in politics.

Victoria, Australia’s first state to legalize medical cannabis, had just become the first state government to win a license under the federal government’s licensing scheme. And before long, Andrews was posting exclusive photos of the young plants to social media with the pride of a new father.

That first crop is all grown up—it was harvested in February. But where did it go from there?

“It is now being tested and formulated,” a Department of Health spokesman told Leafly. The department describes the procedures as “critical steps in developing and validating a product for treating the first patient cohort: children suffering from severe epilepsy.”

The locally made medical cannabis is expected to be made available to patients later this year, with pediatric epilepsy patients the first in line. For now, a smaller group of 29 Victorian children with seizure disorders are involved in a trial to see how cannabidiol oil (CBD) affects them. That CBD oil is imported from Canadian medical cannabis company Tilray at a reported cost of $1 million and is meant to provide a year’s supply of medicine to the 29 patients in the trial. (Editor’s note: Tilray’s parent company, Privateer Holdings, also owns Leafly.)

Asked why the Victorian government is pursuing its own cultivation program despite the federal government’s new allowance for imports, the Health Department spokesman said that a local cannabis industry provides the state with more than just access to legal medicine.

“The Victorian medicinal cannabis framework is not just about making medicinal cannabis legal for eligible patients,” he said, “It is also about the medicinal cannabis products being produced to a consistent high quality and encouraging innovation, growth, and employment opportunities in Victoria.”

He added, “The Victorian government is leading the way by growing and manufacturing medicinal cannabis products for use in the Victorian access scheme, pending the development of industry-based manufacturing in Victoria.”

While the government says it’s on track to deliver the first batch by the middle of the year, it’s not clear how realistic that timeframe that is. Nevertheless, the government is sending a positive message to the nascent cannabis industry, and its decision to import will provide dozens of families with access to critical treatment.