WA Home to one of the largest medicinal cannabis cultures in the southern hemisphere

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One of the largest medical cannabis facilities in the southern hemisphere is about to emerge in the remote Gascoyne region of Western Australia. The industry stands before success.

Important points:

  • More than 250,000 varieties of cannabis are planted in the Gascoyne
  • The project is expected to create up to 70 jobs
  • Medical cannabis manufacturing is set to become a $ 575 million industry

Recently licensed medical cannabis company Elite Cannabinoids has received approval to grow and process a wide range of cannabis strains in an undisclosed location more than half a mile north of Perth.

The crop itself will cover more than 46 acres for growing, and there will be an on-site pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, as well as offices and accommodation that is expected to create more than 60 jobs.

Sebastian Cox, CEO of Elite Cannabinoids, said it was a huge win for the Northwest region.

“It won’t be as big as the Lake MacLeod Salt Works, but once we are at full capacity, we will need 40 full-time employees to handle all kinds of tasks from corporate functions to growing, harvesting, drug extraction and formulation, logistics and Security, “said Cox.

“We also have the opportunity to expand into more countries. If all goes well, we may have more than 70 employees in about five years.

“It will be one of the largest medical cannabis facilities in the southern hemisphere.”

Sebastian Cox, CEO of Elite Cannabinoids. (Supplied: Sebastian Cox)

Some of the best growing conditions in the world

The Gascoyne region may seem arid, but a combination of fertile soil and a subtropical climate has allowed the company to move away from hydroponics.

Hydroponics is a popular method for growing cannabis around the world. It works well for large greenhouses and has proven successful.

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However, Mr Cox said having a natural light source would make the crop organically grown, which would cut costs significantly.

“Gascoyne has a lot of draw cards,” he said.

“It has some of the highest insolation levels in the world, it’s an isolated area – which is fantastic from a biosecurity standpoint because we don’t want pesticides or insecticides to drift off an adjacent property.

“There is water security and plenty of room for expansion.”

Mr Cox said a regenerative approach would be used in the facility.

“The whole goal is to increase the nutrient cycle and carbon levels in the soil,” he said.

“If I can leave this piece of land in better shape than when I started, I think that will be a good result.”

Scale and production

The facility is expected to serve the needs of patients across Australia and has additional capacity for export markets. Around 253,000 varieties of cannabis are to be planted in the first development phase.

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Mr Cox said he hoped to be in production by 2023.

“We already have our local building permit and could start building in six months after six plans,” he said.

“The expansion phase itself could take 12 months and a further six months for commissioning and testing.

“Realistically, I would hope that the system will be fully functional in two years.”

Medical cannabis has a market potential of $ 575 million

There are currently 31 cannabis companies approved to operate in Australia and while the sector is still in its early stages, experts predict the market will boom.

According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, around 600,000 Australians use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Outdoor cannabis plants Elite Cannabinoids’ medicinal cannabinoid harvest spans 46 hectares. (Supplied: Murray Meds)

IBIS World’s senior analyst Will Chapman, an industry research group, said there was great potential for medical cannabis manufacturing in Australia.

“The government did not legalize production and cultivation until 2016, so the industry is still in its youthful stages,” he said.

“Many companies want to build their businesses and put the infrastructure in place so that they can take advantage of the opportunity once some of the barriers to consumer access are removed.

“Our research suggests that medical cannabis manufacturing will grow to an industry of $ 575 million over the next five years.

“This is a significant opportunity as Australian producers also have access to export markets.”

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In 2019, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the agency in charge of regulating medical cannabis, issued more than 25,182 doctors’ prescriptions for the product.

Last year, the TGA also gave the go-ahead for low-dose cannabidiol to be available in pharmacies without a prescription.

However, Mr. Chapman said there was still much to be done.

“There are currently no products listed on the TGA register that can legally deliver drugs in Australia,” he said.

“So patient access depends entirely on overcoming this regulatory barrier by demonstrating that they are safe, effective, consistent and formulated.

“Domestic production continues to grow and increasing demand for medicinal cannabis products in both domestic and export markets is expected to support strong growth this year.

“It will take time for new medical cannabis products to be approved, but cannabis-derived drugs will eventually hit pharmacy shelves.”