Why it’s taking so Long to Legalise Cannabis in Australia?
Cannabis is a plant that contains psychoactive properties and for this reason that cannabis is also named as marijuana which is a common recreational drug. The widespread usage of marijuana as a recreational and addictive drug has brought about many negative connotations to cannabis. However the last few years have seen a paradigm shift in how cannabis has been seen.
Medical research has proven that cannabis has got properties that can be used to treat certain ailments and maladies. For instance research has proven that cannabis can be used to treat chronic depression, anxiety, stress in small doses. It can also be used to treat child epilepsy and initial trials have also suggested that cannabis may also be useful against cancer.
The problem however is that there are many barriers that are stopping the researchers from carrying out their research on cannabis. Not only researchers but other players in the chain such as pharma companies, producers and manufacturers are also affected by these barriers. It must be remembered that Australia legalised medicinal marijuana or cannabis back in 2016 but the laws and regulations that have been placed are so stringent that it amounts to a ban anyway. The usage of recreational cannabis has a blanket ban over it and is therefore illegal in Australia as of the date of writing this article.
The license costs are so high that any investment into cannabis research and development projects turns into onerous costs for the investors. The total cost for obtaining a license for the production of medical cannabis costs around roughly $50,000 which reduces the pool of investors significantly.
Such high fees only for obtaining the license mean that small businesses and research labs get left out of the competition and only big pharmaceutical companies can invest in the research and development of cannabis based medical products. This is not a very sensible way to regulate the young medicinal cannabis sector because by creating such barriers, the government is creating market imperfections.
If the barriers for entry are reduced, more research and development would take place and this would put pressure on all participants of the market to carry out research in a manner that is both cost and production efficient as well as innovative and life changing for the users of medicinal cannabis.
At present there are fewer than hundred Australian companies that have managed to get the production license for medicinal cannabis. These regulatory tactics are inadvertently causing a lot of damage to the pharmaceutical sector because other countries like the USA and Canada are facilitating their pharmaceutical sectors to invest in the research for medicinal cannabis. Now when these firms enter into the Australian market with their cheaper products, they leave no room for the Australian firms to compete with them.
Restriction on Marketing
In addition to the high cost of acquiring the license, there is also a restriction on marketing for medical cannabis based products. This restriction is proving to be extremely detrimental in the way of spreading awareness for cannabis based medicinal products.
The inability to advertise the products through local mainstream and social media, the companies that have invested into medicinal cannabis feel robbed of the opportunity to pitch their products to their target customers and doctors, who above all need to understand the importance of medicinal cannabis.
Australia has one of the highest uses of cannabis, even though recreational use is illegal by law but if this ban was to be removed, it would make Australia the fifth biggest cannabis market in the world. The legal cannabis industry can grow to almost $1.7 billion dollars by 2027, if only the government adopts policies to promote this sector instead of using draconian regulatory laws to inhibit growth.
Waiting Time For Patients
There is no set framework, at present to determine the need for the usage of cannabis based medicinal products for the patients. This is mainly because research into medicinal cannabis is a relatively new area and therefore there are not as many qualified professionals in Australia to determine the suitability of cannabis based treatment for patients, as there should be. It is this shortage of trained personnel and staff that causes long waiting time for patients.
Although this is not the direct reason for being a barrier but the lack of trained and qualified professionals who can lead the legal cannabis sector is one contributing factor that barriers are still in place to prevent Cannabis being legalised in Australia.
Supply Chain Issues
Another major logistic issue that is seriously hampering the legalisation of cannabis in Australia is the absence of local supply chains. This is a relatively new sector of the pharma industry and for a country like Australia that is geographically secluded from the rest of the world, setting up supply chain networks is difficult. Qualified professionals and infrastructure is required which needs funding and will of the government. Even if the government legalises cannabis right now, the absence of a supply chain network will simply result in short supply and other logistic issues.
The good thing about this whole situation is that there are positive indicators from the government that it is interested in decriminalising cannabis. The local marijuana legalisation act that was passed earlier this year that allowed private individuals to cultivate not more than 2 cannabis plants at home, shows that the government is taking measures that will slowly lead towards legalisation of cannabis. The main obstacles are the lack of infrastructure and a regulatory framework to regulate and control the usage of cannabis based products once they are legalised.
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