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New bill seeks to reduce “regulatory burden” on Australia’s medical cannabis industry

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A new bill introduced into federal parliament aims to reduce the amount of “regulatory burden” on Australia’s medical cannabis industry, by combining all the required licenses into one.

The Narcotic Drugs Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill was introduced into the Federal House of Representatives on February 3rd 2021. The bill would make changes to the 1967 Narcotic Drugs Act, in an effort to support Australia’s growing medical cannabis industry. 

This would include redesigning Australia’s existing medical cannabis license system, which currently forces cannabis companies to apply for cannabis cultivation, production, manufacturing, and research licenses separately. 

These licenses cost thousands of dollars to obtain in a process that takes several months to complete. For many small businesses, the cost of licensing is so high that entering the medical cannabis industry is simply unaffordable. Licenses are also renewed annually, creating enough red tape to suffocate an industry that is just starting to bloom

Narcotic Drugs Act 1967

Changes proposed in the Narcotic Drugs Amendment (Medical Cannabis) Bill would see the four-license system replaced with a single medical cannabis license. The bill also proposes that medical cannabis-related licenses are made semi-permanent, in a push to provide “greater certainty to businesses.”

The bill was introduced by Dan Tehan, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. According to comments made by Tehan at the second reading of the bill, the bill will support Australia’s “innovative” medicinal cannabis industry by reducing duplicate processes and moving supply-chain assessments to the ‘permit’ stage of the licensing process. 

A single perpetual license will allow license applicants and holders to appropriately manage their business investment and planning decisions.

Tehan also believes this will ensure patients have access to safe and legal medical cannabis grown in Australia. 

The changes proposed in the bill are the result of a review of the Narcotic Drugs Act, carried out by Professor John McMillan in 2019. The bill was also drafted to reflect ideas raised at industry forums in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. 

If the bill passes, it will be on the Office of Drug Control to restructure the licensing process. Long term, this will reduce the number of hurdles businesses need to clear to enter the medical cannabis industry.

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