Cannabis has taken the world by storm, and we mean that literally because the U.S. cannabis industry is estimated to be worth over $61 billion. Other countries are beginning to catch up but will Australia follow suit? Although Australia legalized medical cannabis in 2016, its laws on CBD, in particular, have been unclear, but it is expected that in 2021, Australians may gain access to CBD as a medication.
A closer look
A simple answer to the question above is YES! Australia is ready to follow the U.S. lead, but wait a minute, because it’s not that simple as there are factors to consider from both the government and CBD companies before CBD can get to the hands of Australians.
With an ever-growing range of health benefits from anxiety relief to providing neuroprotection and acting as an anti-acne agent, America has and is still harnessing the value of CBD. No country wants to be left out, as aside from the medical benefits, there is also the potential it holds in stimulating the economy. However, cannabis is always heavily regulated in countries because it is vulnerable to abuse if open-access is allowed. Hence, it has taken Australia a long time to follow the U.S. by allowing CBD sales.
A detailed analysis
On September 9, 2020, the Australian government announced an “Interim” decision that CBD medication could be bought over the counter. Before the announcement, citizens could only obtain CBD by first getting a doctor’s prescription and approval from the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Unlike in the USA, where citizens have more flexible access to CBD through its many product variants such as oils, gummies, and even lotions.
But the announcement in September set the country on a much more progressive path exploring the benefits of CBD as it offered a glimmer of hope to Australians that they can sell CBD. The announcement also means that CBD will be tagged “A Schedule 4 drug” and no longer a Schedule 3 drug, so what’s the difference?
Well, Schedule 3 drugs are substances and chemicals with a moderate potential for abuse and psychological dependence, such as steroids, testosterone, and Tylenol with codeine. On the other hand, Schedule 4 drugs with low potential for abuse and a lower risk of dependence, with examples like Valium and Tramadol.
Getting approval from the government with a set timeline for execution (June 1, 2021) was a big win for Australia’s CBD industry. But, another question is: is the market big enough and ready to sell CBD products? Well, a significant sign that Australia is also prepared to follow America’s lead is the size of its low-dose CBD market. According to experts in Australia, 20% of patients are already taking the low-dose CBD, yes this is a smaller percentage compared to the American market, but the future projections are quite impressive. It is projected that the CBD market in Australia will grow exponentially into a $200 million market.
With a growing customer base in place and the government’s willingness to explore the CBD industry as America has done, Australians can expect impressive results from the healing properties of cannabis. The truth about cannabis making a tremendous impact in people’s lives by helping them gain relief from various health challenges is no longer in doubt. Yet, a lack of government commitment to making it available drives some people to seek it illegally, where the danger of abuse becomes real.
But with Australia taking this bold step, the number of people getting CBD products through unregulated and dangerous channels will reduce. Through this regulatory commitment, the Australian government will make the sale and acquisition of CBD much more straightforward. Dr. Mark Hardy works at C.A. Clinics, Australia’s first medical cannabis network. He believes that the country joining countries like the USA will make for a ‘Smooth sailing’ for Australians.
Most notably is the fact that this announcement may be problematic for some patients in healthcare centers. For example, patients who seek cannabis treatment for severe chronic conditions may require it in much higher doses than what the government puts in place as an over-the-counter purchase. Some patients may also require other forms of cannabinoids like THC, which are not part of the government’s regulatory policies. The solution lies in the patients consulting doctors before going ahead with a higher dosage as the purpose of the government’s intervention through regulations is to avoid the possibility of abuse.
From all we have discussed thus far, Australia is ready to follow America’s lead. Additional factors may obstruct these efforts to bring cannabis closer to Australians, and a key factor is product availability. The government and pharmaceuticals will have to figure out how to get the products on the market as quickly as possible. Clinical data from trials to show efficacy are required to register a Schedule 3 label product.
The new regulations stipulate that sales of pure, packaged CBD to adults will be packets that hold 1,800 mg of the product or a 30-day supply offer covering the 60 mg daily recommended dosage. The goal is for companies to produce clinical data showing its efficacy for the 60 mg dosage requirement. Yes, Australia has the regulatory pathway, but companies meeting the medical targets to register products for approval is another crucial consideration.
Again, Australia rose to the occasion with companies maintaining that they collaborated with TGA to meet all requirements. Therefore, despite the hurdles to cross to make CBD available to Australians, practitioners in the industry are already gearing up for June 2021 to reveal products for sale.
Australia also showed its readiness to take the CBD market seriously with new data from its previous legal, medical cannabis products, significantly increasing from 50% to 150% in 2019. Experts project a 300% increase by the end of 2021 when the new regulation is enforced in June of the same year.
While these figures show a clear path for Australia’s CBD market, the reality of the market succeeding lies with CBD companies and how they ensure 100% compliance with the quality control checks that will certify CBD safe and effective for users.
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