Australia tipped to become 'envy of the world' in cannabis

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The Asia-Pacific medicinal cannabis market has been tipped to heat-up by the two companies involved in the launch of a new Australia-based marijuana cultivation business.

Australian start-up Greenfield MC — which was launched in 2018 as an importer and distributor of medicinal cannabis — will now become a grower, under the terms of a new deal with US-Canadian company Emerald Plants Health Source (EPHS).

The two companies will create a joint venture business, Greenfield MC Cultivation, which will develop a cannabis growing operation in Australia for export across the Asia-Pacific market, Business Insider Australia can reveal.

There are 20 organisations listed on the Australian Office of Drug Control’s website as having secured a licence to cultivate medicinal cannabis, though it is unclear how many have actually started producing.

EPHS — which is licensed to grow and distribute cannabis in Canada and listed on the New York-based OTC stock exchange — is anticipating the Asia-Pacific medicinal cannabis market will become the world’s largest as demand for cannabis-based treatment grows.

“For those very reasons, we see Australia as the gateway to Asia, which it already is in various agricultural and pharmaceutical product categories.”

A study conducted by London-based cannabis industry lobbyist Prohibition Partners, and funded by cannabis growers and distributors, estimates the Asian market to be worth as as much as $US5.8 billion ($8.5 billion) by 2024.

Locations are now being scouted for the Greenfield-EPHS growing operation and the Queensland Sunshine Coast is a current frontrunner, the two companies said, thanks to its “favourable climate and natural light-cycle”. The business is due to be operational by late 2020 and will employ about 200 people across farming, lab work and security, a Greenfield spokesperson confirmed.

The Greenfield-EPHS deal comes as Australian actor Olivia Newton-John has thrown a spotlight on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. The Grease star told Nine’s 60 Minutes program that the plant has greatly relieved her pain symptoms related to breast and bone cancer, increasing her energy levels and mobility.

Putting the medicine in ‘medicinal cannabis’

But although celebrity product endorsements are always helpful, Greenfield is betting that serious medical industry clout is worth more when it comes to the medicinal marijuana market.

The company recently recruited Sree Appu, a former oncologist at the Monash Cancer Centre in Melbourne, as its chief medical officer and chairman of its medical board.

Speaking to Business Insider Australia, Appu said any business trying to take advantage of the huge Asia-Pacific medicinal cannabis opportunity would need to prove its medical credentials.

“There’s a lot of buzz around the enormous potential of the medicinal cannabis market and people from all walks of life are jumping on board,” Appu said.

“However, we’re talking about medicine here. We’re talking about a product that needs to be prescribed by doctors and dispensed by pharmacists. And while there’s already promising evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis for a range of health conditions, further product development needs to be underscored by clinical trials and real-world clinical knowledge.”

Appu said there was a growing body of evidence from clinical trials suggesting cannabis has had a positive impact on patients suffering from conditions including epilepsy, chronic pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea, backing up the comments made by Newton-John to 60 Minutes.

With Greenfield headed to a private capital raise later in 2019, the Aussie start-up will be hoping its high-profile medical recruit — and new global-backed push into cultivation — will have investors feeling mellow and euphoric.

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