Importing and Exporting Medicinal Cannabis Products to Australia

In terms of the unfolding cannabis market, all eyes are on a handful of countries who have begun the process of decriminalizing the plant and its derivative products at varying degrees.

Australia is considering law reform around cannabis use. Medicinal cannabis is permitted under Australia’s legal framework, and import channels are open to opportunistic entrepreneurs looking for new opportunities in this exciting market. Currently, there’s potential for exporting cannabis oil products to a medical community in need.

Cannabis oil: popularity and uses

Medicinal cannabis/hemp oils and tinctures
Currently, there’s potential for exporting cannabis oil products to a medical community in need.

A spotlight has been placed on cannabis oils by the medical community, and businesses are responding to this popularity.

Global perception of this plant has changed in waves. Many governments are reconsidering their stance on the plant and its derivative products after identifying cannabis’ medical successes and the economic opportunity as a result of increased global demand.

Australia, an agricultural powerhouse, has been reviewing its cannabis laws with a view to introducing a new market to its high-performing economy, and provide access to patients in need.

Australian cannabis laws

Currently, Australia permits the medicinal use of cannabis in all six of its states. Cultivation for medicinal and research purposes was legalized in 2016 by the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act.

Outside of this legislation, each state administers its own specific legislation around cannabis use and possession, and they vary slightly between them. Low levels of possession for personal use have not garnered much attention. However, some state laws crack down on cultivation in an attempt to slow widespread and large-scale cultivation for commercial purposes.

Australian states are now reconsidering their stance on cannabis. In a landmark move, Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) legalized cannabis for personal use on 25 September 2019. The law, allows individuals to possess up to 50 grams of cannabis on their person, and 2 plants for recreational cannabis cultivation (limited at 4 per household).

Canberra legalizes cannabis for personal use
In a landmark move, Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) legalized cannabis for personal use on 25 September 2019.

Further to this progress, the country’s Australia Cannabis Agency Bill of 2018 aims to establish a framework for the production and use of recreational cannabis within the Australian Capital and Northern Territories. The Bill is currently sitting in front of the Senate.

Medicinal cannabis activity

In the meantime, Australia does already offer licenses for individuals to cultivate and manufacture cannabis for medicinal purposes. These licenses are outlined under the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967, and permit local entities to

  • Cultivate and/or produce cannabis for medicinal purposes
  • Produce cannabis for research purposes
  • Manufacture cannabis or a derivative product for medicinal purposes.

Additionally, the country’s Office of Drug Control manages export and import processes for medicinal cannabis and derivatives.

Top cannabis oil importer

Australia leads Oceania as the top cannabis oil consumer. Worldwide, it ranks as the seventh-largest importer of cannabis, buying up 2.6% of global supply in 2018. The value of this consumption reached US$79.8 million in the same year, which is an 87.2% increase in cannabis import spending since 2014. The volume of imports is set to increase as the country looks at further paring back its regulations on cannabis.

Australia maintains strict regulations on import procedures for cannabis products, which can act as a natural barrier to entry for competition. Businesses that make moves to enter the medicinal cannabis market now are putting themselves in a prime position for further cannabis activity as Australia works towards establishing a clearer framework for its cannabis market.

Connecting with importers

Australia leading cannabis oil importer
Australia leads Oceania as the top cannabis oil consumer. Worldwide, it ranks as the seventh-largest importer of cannabis, buying up 2.6% of global supply in 2018.

Cannabis import activities are subject to international drug conventions. Both importing and exporting governments must permit your proposed products for import into Australia.

Medical practitioners in Australia can seek out cannabis products for import, provided they or a relevant pharmacist have an import license and have sought permission to import a particular product. Some state regulations require practitioners to seek state approval for prescribing this product to patients first. They’ll also need to ensure that the product meets certain quality standards set by the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Under TGA standards, cannabis preparations such as “oils, tinctures and other extracts” can be approved for import.

To export your medicinal cannabis oil, you’ll need to prove that your product meets these standards before you can export to Australia.

A quick note on exports from Australia

Export-wise, an Australian business can export cannabis products that have been manufactured by the holder of a Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) license. Medicinal cannabis, if not registered on the ARTG, may be recorded as ‘export-only,’ barring their entry into the local market.

Cannabis extracts that are not in ‘final dosage form’ may also be exported out of Australia.

Opportunities for business

medicinal cannabis imports to Australia
With temporary schemes allowing greater access to cannabis products for patients, companies producing medical products of the plant have an early inroad to this evolving market.

Australia is setting itself a deadline for further legalization of cannabis. With temporary schemes allowing greater access to cannabis products, companies producing certain products have an inroad to this evolving market.

There are a number of regulatory requirements local practitioners must adhere to when bringing a medicinal cannabis product into Australia. They’re also subject to audits by local authorities. You must make sure you provide the right paperwork to prove the components of your product in order to export it safely. Australia may be maintaining a tight grip on import and export procedures now. But establishing your business as an early provider now will allow you to build credibility and brand awareness as the legislation is reviewed and reformed to welcome new products or reduce bureaucracy.

By building strong trade channels and business relationships now, you’re setting your cannabis import/export business up for success in one of the Western world’s most successful, buoyant economies.

We can help you get started

Act fast to secure your future in this powerful economy. By getting your foot in the door now, you can establish strong import channels into Australia’s unraveling cannabis market.

At Biz Latin Hub, we operate across Latin America and the South Pacific for all your back-office and consulting needs for cannabis business. With a team of leading experts in cannabis operating across these regions, we can help you and your company successfully expand into an emerging cannabis market.

Contact us here to learn more about this opportunity and get personalized assistance.

Learn more about our team and expert authors.

The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.

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