30 June 2017

The Minister for Health has asked the Office of Drug Control, within the Department of Health, to explore options to allow the export of medicinal cannabis products while simultaneously enabling sufficient product to be made available for domestic use.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the long term availability of domestically grown medicinal cannabis products to Australian patients. At the same time, it is important not to constrain the growth of an emerging domestic industry through restricting market opportunities.

In the first stages of establishing the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, the focus was to enable sufficient supply for Australian patients to develop through permitting local cultivation, production and manufacture. Export was however, envisaged in the second reading speech in Parliament outlining the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016, allowing for 'a provision for exports to be addressed at a later date when the scheme has demonstrated that it is sufficiently secure and robust to meet international and domestic expectations'.

Since that time, the Department of Health has granted over 15 licences for cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis. At the same time, the Department of Health has enabled "bulk" imports of medicinal cannabis products into Australia to support domestic access for patients while the national industry comes online.

Domestic access

The legislative provision for the cultivation, and production of cannabis for medicinal purposes and the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products for human therapeutic use was designed to ensure that there is a safe, well-regulated supply of products for Australian patients.

It is essential that access to domestically grown medicinal cannabis products is not compromised for approved Australian patients and they are given first priority under any Australian scheme.

Options to enable this may include:

  • Doing nothing to further enable domestic supply and allow the market to work to determine the product that is supplied domestically and internationally.
  • Making changes to the regulation of cannabis manufacture licences to require a proportion of supply to go to the Australian market.
  • Imposing relevant conditions on licences and permits to guarantee domestic supply.
  • Putting in place an industry code of practice that, with the assistance of industry, allows for flexibility in access provisions to ensure adequate supply to the domestic market.
  • Encouraging cultivators and manufacturers of medicinal cannabis to publicly commit to an obligation to supply to the Australian market.

Your feedback

To support the emerging Australian industry's competitiveness in the international markets for medicinal cannabis products, the Department of Health is seeking comments on the following issues:

  • Should Australia allow the export of medicinal cannabis products?
  • How might domestic patient access be maintained - noting that stakeholders are encouraged to provide suggestions.

Timing

To allow for the progression of potential regulatory changes in a timely fashion, we request that current licence holders or applicants, or those who might consider engagement in the industry, provide feedback to the Office of Drug Control, Department of Health via email to DCS@health.gov.au (stating 'Industry comment on export' in the subject line) not later than 21 July 2017.