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Legalising medicinal cannabis would create $100 million industry

29 March 2016
Research from the Business School on the economic impact of legalising medicinal cannabis

Analysis from the University of Sydney Business School has found that legalising medicinal cannabis in Australia could create a new industry worth more than $100 million per year. 

The white paper is the first of its kind to examine the logistical as well as medicinal benefits of a local medicinal cannabis industry for Australia.
Michael Katz, University of Sydney Business School

Initial demand for medicinal cannabis in Australia could be as high as 8,000kg of the product worth more than $100 million per year, according to a study by the University of Sydney Business School.

The estimate, revealed in a white paper titled Medicinal Cannabis in Australia: Science, Regulation & Industry, produced in partnership with medicinal cannabis company MGC Pharmaceuticals, draws on data from a number of existing markets including those in Israel, Canada and the Netherlands.

Legislation allowing for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis was passed by Federal Parliament in February and regulations governing production under licence are now being drafted. 

The Business School’s analysis found that a medicinal cannabis industry in Australia could potentially help tens of thousands patients suffering from a wide range of medical conditions including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

The report also found that up to 51,000 square metres of greenhouse space - almost three times the size of the Sydney Cricket Ground - would be needed to produce the amount of cannabis required to meet demand.

The Business School’s Michael Katz said the white paper was the first of its kind to examine the logistical as well as medicinal benefits of a local medicinal cannabis industry for Australia.

“There’s a lot more to a new industry like medical cannabis than you might immediately think. You’ve got the technical agriculture side of it, the medical processes such as extraction and dosage, the technology side such as scalable standardisation tools, supply chain logistics and so on,” Mr Katz said.

“Obviously this will lead to important health outcomes for a wide variety of people. For example, it could provide considerable relief for those suffering from epilepsy.

“However, we’re also going to see employment and wealth creation opportunities in all of the sectors that will come together to facilitate a medical cannabis market, so it’s about much more than just the medical benefits.”

The Business School’s analysis found that a medicinal cannabis industry in Australia could potentially help tens of thousands patients suffering from epilepsy. 

MGC Pharmaceuticals offered its expertise to the Business School in areas such as the cultivation and processing of medicinal cannabis. Managing Director Nativ Segev said the company’s experience producing medicinal cannabis products overseas put it at the forefront of the emerging industry in Australia.

“The white paper confirms to us the strong need for developing the medicinal cannabis industry in Australia, which is estimated to be valued at over $100 million. MGC Pharma has both the growing know-how and genetic expertise to be at the forefront this industry, helping tens of thousands of Australians suffering from a broad range of conditions,” Mr Segev said.

Welcoming the release of the white paper, the Dean of the Business School, Professor Greg Whitwell, said it “reflected the School’s commitment to leadership for good”.

“Through its research and participation in the national debate on public policy, the Business School must act as an advocate of social change,” Professor Whitwell said.

Mr Katz also praised the work of the team of four students who led the study and compiled the white paper.

“This project gave the students an opportunity to use the business skills they have acquired at the University of Sydney in a real and important context, and it also helped them to realise that these skills can be used to bring about social change. We are expecting this white paper to have a massive social impact,” Mr Katz said.

Business School student Hessan Alishah said he hoped government looked to the white paper to inform its policy on the creation and regulation of such an important industry.

“This project improved our research and analytical skills as well as knowledge of the subject which in turn nurtured a passion for regulatory change. We became highly educated about the social and economic impact of medicinal cannabis and this drove our advocacy of it,” Mr Alishah said.