Coronavirus buy-local trend driving demand for Australian-grown medicinal cannabis


An Australian medical cannabis company says the rise of the buy-local movement during COVID-19 driven has up demand for locally produced cannabinoid products.

Little Green Pharma (LGP) is based at a secret location in WA’s South West and has experienced a boom in sales since the pandemic began.

Chief operating officer Paul Long said the trend was being driven by a range of social and economic factors stemming from the health crisis and not necessarily by a spike in patient numbers.

“I think COVID has put pressure on supply chains, so companies that have been importing products from outside Australia, and particularly from Canada … have seen some challenges, with some outages of product,” he said.

“There’s also been this feel of ‘let’s support locally grown, let’s support Australian business’, so we’ve benefited from that throughout COVID and seen an uplift during the last two to three months.

“Since we started in August 2018 we’ve had just over 6,500 patients, but in the last three months alone we’ve seen 1,300 new patients.”

Demand for cannabis products had been growing exponentially before the health crisis, Mr Long said.

LGP was predominantly focused on the potential of the domestic market, despite export prospects ramping up in Europe, including the UK and Germany, he said.

“Expert reports show that medicinal cannabis products get to about 1 to 2 per cent of the population, so if you look at total numbers in Australia, we’ve got a long way to go in that growth, which is exciting for the industry as a whole.”

Matty Moore has been prescribing medicinal cannabis for about 12 months.

While legally restricted from discussing the benefits of medicinal cannabis products for his patients, he said he had been prescribing more than ever.

He said conditions he treated using the medicine included chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, cancer pain and insomnia, with patients mostly aged 60 and over.

“It’s an increasing part of what I’m doing. Each week I’m seeing more and more new patients, and at some point it will be a significant part of my business.”

Dr Moore said the medical profession was becoming more open to prescribing medicinal cannabis as a treatment option.

“The age-old bias is hard to break from last century when cannabis was looked down upon and tightly controlled,” he said.

“We’re behind on its use, but we’re catching up … it’s tightly regulated and that means that we compile evidence and data.

“We’re all evidence-based physicians, so as we get more and more evidence, people will be more comfortable prescribing it for their patients.”

Government backs industry expansion

With an increasing number of doctors prescribing cannabinoid products for pain relief, medicinal cannabis is tipped to become a billion-dollar business in Australia.

The WA Government wants to ensure the state gets a piece of the pie, recently providing a $300,000 grant to LGP to facilitate an expansion of its manufacturing operations.

LGP now has the capacity to produce up to 110,000 bottles of finished medicine for the Australian market each year.

“We see great potential for CBD production in pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals,” she said.

“[We want] to make sure that we here in WA are leading producers, not just Australia-wide but that we become major players internationally.

“Not only is the industry going to help millions of people around the world … it’s going to drive a brilliant new industry full of interesting jobs here in the South West.”, 2 August 2020
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