Australia looks to implement single medical cannabis license for producers


The Australian government held public consultations on a proposal to implement a single medical cannabis license for producers, which experts say would address lengthy delays and disproportionate levels of paperwork facing businesses.

The proposal is part of a government-commissioned report authored by John McMillan – law professor at Australian National University in Canberra – last year that recommended 26 specific areas of improvement.

Health authorities intend to implement the reforms governing the cannabis industry in two stages.

The regulation amendments for the first stage of the process entered into force on Jan. 1, 2020.

The second stage takes on the more serious changes, which require amendments to the law.

As part of this stage, the government is looking to implement McMillan’s seventh recommendation, which reads:

“The Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 be amended to establish a new license structure applying to medicinal cannabis products. The Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 should provide for the issue of a single license to authorize all or some of cultivation, production, manufacture and research of such products.”

The proposed changes would be a big improvement, according to Rhys Cohen, principal consultant at North Sydney-based data firm FreshLeaf Analytics.

“The ODC has struggled to manage an overly prescriptive, risk averse – verging on paranoid – and nearly broken piece of legislation which has dictated how commercial activities must be authorized by the government,” he wrote in an analysis this week.

“One of the many challenges with the existing system has been that activities are siloed into license types. And even for companies that operate all licensed activities within the same facility, simple things like transferring trimmed flower to the processing room require disproportionate levels of paperwork and needless delays.”

Three different licenses that can be granted under the current process.

The proposed new system would cut that to a single license flexible enough to apply to multiple sites.

The government is also proposing that the assessment of the application take place in two steps, the latter of which would only commence after a site is constructed.

“The 2 step process will reduce the regulatory burden on applicants and allow the (Office of Drug Control), by reducing the required effort to revisit an applicant’s circumstances, to redirect its resources and achieve efficiencies in the time taken to process an application for a license,” the consultation paper prepared for the ODC reads.

The government is also considering removing the requirement to reapply for, or renew, a license.

Cohen says the draft amendments will take several months to finalize.

“This is no small project,” he wrote.

“When the actual amendments will be made will depend on the government’s legislative agenda, so it’s possible that if things go smoothly this could all be wrapped up before the end of the year, but it may also stretch into 2021.”

Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected].