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You Won’t Believe Australia’s Security Rules for Medical Cannabis

November 2, 2016
High tech overhead security camera at a government owned building.
Want a license to grow medical cannabis in Australia? You’d better have a custom-built, high-security facility. And get ready for the government to vet your business associates and family members.

That’s what you can expect based on documents released by the country’s Office of Drug Control (ODC) this week. The ODC published a number of example forms which will be the basis of online applications for licenses to cultivate, produce, and manufacture medical marijuana in Australia. Along with the forms, the ODC published several guidance documents for security, “fit and proper person” requirements, and fees.

Permits, which prescribe the types and quantities of cannabis that can be cultivated, are not yet available, and there’s yet no word on when they’re expected. But the licenses make clear that growing any amount of cannabis for medical or research purposes in Australia is going mean a lot of red tape.

Shipments must be made by unmarked vans traveling on regularly varied schedules and routes.

The ODC takes the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs very seriously—concerns about stockpiling cannabis mean that licenses will only allow enough production to meet the domestic demand for medicine. In practical terms, this is a bureaucratic Catch-22; production can’t exceed patient demand, but the ODC can’t be certain what those requirements are going to be until the market exists. Officials estimate that “only a small number of cultivators will be necessary to meet domestic demand.”

High-security measures

In its 23-page guideline document regarding security, the ODC ticks off detailed requirements for how to keep stringent controls on medicine. The mandates are onerous. Along with the standard closed-circuit TV monitoring and alarm system, these include “climb-proof perimeter fencing” free of shrubbery, outsourced security staff making perimeter sweeps, and even measures to monitor the security staff, requiring that licensees effectively watch the watchers.

It doesn’t stop there. A safe, vault, or strong room will be necessary for storage, the guidelines say, but those can’t be housed in a room that shares an exterior wall. Presumably that’s to shield the non-stockpile of medical cannabis from explosive heists or attacks by wreaking ball.


Why Australia Treats Medical Cannabis With Extreme Care

And to protect cannabis in transit, GPS tracking chips will accompany shipments—shipments, by the way, that must be made by unmarked vans traveling on regularly varied schedules and routes.

The ODC even suggests “pocket-less clothing” for employees in a novel defense against workers walking off with small quantities of product.

On top of all that, cultivators are required to prevent cross-pollination or spread of their crop as the cannabis is grown. That means outdoor growing will be, in the ODC’s words, “difficult.”

Application fees and charges

Estimates of the ODC’s non-refundable fees were also made available this week (all amounts in AU$):

  • Application for a cultivation/production license: $5,290
  • Application for a cultivation/production permit: $1,830
  • Inspection in relation to an application: $7,050

Annual charges have yet to be revealed. But compare the cost of a license (including inspection) to the charge for a low-level medicine manufacturing license from the Therapetic Goods Administration, which regulates medicines, ($6,160) or an Australian Taxation Office license to manufacture alcohol—which has no application or renewal fee. Then consider that the ODC defines cultivation as all steps up to, but not including, harvest. Production is “harvest and placing in a container.” So unless your business is based on putting someone else’s cannabis in a container, you’ll likely need two licenses.

Add the substantial cost of complying with the ODC’s security measures and you are looking at a high regulatory bar to entering a market which is estimated (at least by the ODC) to be relatively small. It isn’t yet clear how many potential applicants will be willing to clear that bar.

  • Clive Lohrey

    Yeah, but that’s only because our government appears to be on long term lease to your bloody pharmaceutical companies! Lol

  • malcolmkyle

    According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute: in the year 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately only 223,000 deaths (3 percent of all drug-related deaths).” Marijuana doesn’t get a mention.

  • Steven Campbell

    Once again Australia reveals itself to be a step behind common sense and civilisation. Cannabis has been used and studied and proved beneficial for thousands of years. Across the world, we old hippies have been growing and giving cannabis to people by the truck loads, all of the while without a security feature or even a decent pair of work gloves. The government wants to treat a harmless plant like a viral infection to be hidden behind a wall of red tape, armed guards and barking dogs. To be fair, once cannabis is seen to be harmless even by the barking dogs of public opinion, then Cannabis is indeed a disease that once released could wipe out entire ways of thinking. This anti cannabis prohibition is a great humbug. Bah! to the ridiculous war on drugs and to the whole waste of public time and tax money.

  • boy, the powerful and elitists really want to make sure no one enjoys the natural high over the poison alcohol, and make sure the population continues to die off @ record numbers … planned obsolescence (of people)

  • Vickie Roach

    And who wants the genetically engineered shit the gubbament will force people to grow anyway?