As of this writing, cannabis is considered an illicit drug according to Australian legislature. This means that only those with certain licenses are allowed to cultivate and distribute the plant. These licenses are granted by the Office of Drug Control, which is responsible for regulating the medical cannabis industry in Australia.
Medical cannabis products that are sold as medicine are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration or TGA for short. This organization regulates the quality and access to therapeutic goods manufactured from cannabis. The TGA and the ODC work together to regulate the country’s growing cannabis industry, with oversight from the Australian Government Department of Health. Taken together, these organizations are referred to as the Health Products Regulation Group.
Their job is to regulate the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis for scientific research and medicinal purposes.
The Single Convention
Since cannabis is considered to be a narcotic drug, the Australian government has a responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t get averted into illegal applications. This means that the country must abide by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs Act of 1961.
Also known as the Single Convention, this Act limits the cultivation of medical cannabis to organizations that hold a state-issued permit. This allows the government to limit the amount of cannabis that’s cultivated each year which in turn restricts the supply and averts the risk of diverting the plant into a narcotic material to be sold on the black market.
Required medical cannabis licenses
Before a company or individual can cultivate cannabis for medicinal use in Australia, they need to obtain a cannabis research or medical cannabis license from the ODC. After that you’re required to obtain a cannabis research or medical cannabis permit from the same organization.
You’ll need both the license and permit before you can purchase the seeds, nursery stock and equipment needed to start cultivation.
The medical cannabis permit typically contains the following details:
- The types of cannabis strains that you’re allowed to cultivate
- The amount that you’re allowed to produce
- The accepted timeframes within which to cultivate and/or manufacture the crop
- Specific researchers or manufacturers that you’re allowed to partner with as part of the supply chain of your production process
Applicants need to fulfil a few important preconditions in order to obtain a legal medical cannabis license. They are as follows:
- Applicant must prove that the license being obtained is for the purpose of medicinal cannabis research, or;
- To supply medical cannabis and/or medical cannabis products to licensed medical cannabis manufacturers
It’s important to ensure that your license is effective otherwise it won’t make it to the next step of the process, which is assessment. To reach the next stage, your permit must meet the following conditions:
- All fields within the application are filled in properly
- All the mandatory documents have been submitted
If your application doesn’t meet these preconditions, the ODC will notify you so that you can rectify your mistakes and re-submit it.
Once an effective application is accepted, it has to go through a formal assessment to ensure that it satisfies all requirements. These requirements include:
- Ensuring that the applicant and his/her partners are of good repute and can satisfy the ODC’s Fit and Proper Test. This ensures that license holders will not divert the product to the black market.
- Passing a criminal background check which includes an investigation into your history for the past 10 years to ensure that you haven’t engaged in any serious offence. This includes drug or other offences as defined by the Narcotics Drug Act.
- You’ll be asked to reveal any civil penalties enforced upon you.
- You must also provide information on all of your business associates and immediate family members over the age of 18. This information is required because the people closest to you have the biggest influence on your life and conduct, including the way in which you manage your enterprise. Your business associates must also go through the fit and proper test individually.
- Applicants must provide information on previous business experience and demonstrate an ability to operate a sustainable enterprise.
Security requirements to be fulfilled before a license is issued include:
- A physical inspection of the site and cultivation equipment
- Inspection of security contractors and staff
- Scrutiny of record management practices and information security measures
Due to these and other processes, a single application assessment could take several months to complete. In the meantime, the ODC will provide you with ongoing progress updates with regards to their own internal processes.