Govt throws weight behind SA medical marijuana industry

A South Australian company with heavyweight backers has been formed to grow medical marijuana here and the State Government says it will support the industry, InDaily can reveal.

Oct 10, 2016, updated Oct 10, 2016
A worker tending a legal medical marijuana crop in Israel.

A worker tending a legal medical marijuana crop in Israel.

Australian Cannabis Corporation co-founder Ben Fitzsimons told InDaily he met with State Government representatives last Friday, where they gave the company approval to apply to the federal government for a licence to cultivate medical marijuana in South Australia.

“We have met with the [State] Government – they have said that they support what we’re doing and that’s what we need for Federal Government approval,” he said.

“The vision is creating employment opportunities for all South Australians [and] to create a global research hub.”

The State Government this afternoon told InDaily it would help medical marijuana businesses lobby the Federal Government.

“The State Government welcomes the development of a medical cannabis industry, including research and development,” a spokesperson said.

“[It] will assist licensed medicinal cannabis businesses operating in this State to lobby the Commonwealth Government to permit the export of any medicinal cannabis products which may be made in South Australia in the future.”

The South Australian Government has previously expressed support for interstate clinical trials of medical marijuana, but said it would wait for results before considering any legalisation.

The spokesperson added that the Government supported medical marijuana “research facilities and public institutions” being established in SA.

“[The State Government] understands the importance of removing barriers to help develop a medicinal cannabis industry in South Australia and supports in-principle medicinal cannabis research and development in South Australian research facilities and public institutions, including clinical research,” the spokesperson said.

Patient access in South Australia will be by prescription from specialist medical practitioners, only to patients with a serious, chronic illness that is unresponsive to conventional treatment, and to products made under the Commonwealth’s licensing scheme or imported under a permit issued by the Therapeutic Goods Association, according to the spokesperson.

Fitzsimons said he had been on a “personal journey with family members” who had suffered unnecessarily because they could not access the medical marijuana products.

He said establishing a medical marijuana industry in South Australia would he a “huge” financial opportunity the state, not only commercially, but also to boost State Government coffers.

“The future of the industry is a serious one – it will be a global industry,” he said.

“It’s attracting world-class standard of academics and businesspeople.

“We need to do this, from the state point of view and the national point of view, because we can change people’s lives.”

Fitzsimons said he could not disclose whether – or where – the Australian Cannabis Corporation had purchased land on which to cultivate marijuana crops.

“[It] has to be done it total secret, for obvious reasons,” he said.

“The licence will set the parameters of what … product you’re allowed to grow or manufacture [or] research.”

He said the experience of the US state of Colorado, which legalised both medical and recreational marijuana in early 2014, showed a legal cannabis industry could be an economic boon for a state – though recreational marijuana was “not on the table,” he said.

In a Facebook post, Fitzsimons revealed that SA businessmen Shane Yeend and Reece Formosa were co-founders of the company.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks told InDaily a medical marijuana industry would come with great benefits for South Australia.

“The benefits to the Health budget alone … start in the millions and move into the low billions,” she said.

“If we can be among the first … we’d have that advantage in the market, which will be profitable for our state.”

She said the State Government would have to set up a system to apply for the licences and train doctors to prescribe medical marijuana products, in order for the industry to get started in SA.

She said that, meanwhile, Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria were “taking away potential business and jobs from South Australia”.

The Australian Cannabis Corporation was registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission last month.

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