Bid to chop medicinal cannabis red tape

The federal government is looking to make it easy to be allowed to produce medicinal cannabis.
The federal government is looking to make it easy to be allowed to produce medicinal cannabis.

Organisations wanting to produce medicinal cannabis could soon find it easier to get the green light.

The Morrison government is hoping to add to economic growth by making it quicker to get a licence to work in the burgeoning industry, for projects likely to make a big splash in jobs or exports.

The pledge comes as more than 10,000 prescriptions for medicinal cannabis have been written in Australia.

There are currently 69 organisations licensed to cultivate or produce medicinal cannabis across the nation.

But from September, the Office of Drug Control will prioritise new licences for projects that have been granted "major project status" by the industry department.

To earn the status, the project would need to have a big impact on exports, jobs or industry development.

The change comes as a review of the Narcotic Drugs Act has encouraged the government to bust red tape that is slowing down medicinal cannabis cultivation, production and manufacturing.

The independent review has recommended reducing the regulatory burden for licence applicants, including the time it takes for them to apply and the level of detail they need to provide.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the government has agreed in principle to accept all 26 recommendations from the probe spearheaded by Professor John McMillan.

"Cutting red tape and streamlining processes will strengthen this important and evolving industry, and ensure medicinal cannabis is available to Australian patients under proper medical supervision," he said.

Among the changes will be working towards one licence covering all activities involving medicinal cannabis, rather than separate ones for different activities such as manufacturing or research.

More than 10,000 prescriptions for medicinal cannabis products have been written in Australia, as of June 30, for almost 7200 patients authorised to access them through a special scheme.

Australian Associated Press