01 March 2022 |

What Does Australia’s Cannabis Industry Look Like?

By Kaitlin Domangue

Cannabis in Australia

The Australian parliament legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2016.

Recreational cannabis consumption is still illegal, except in the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, Williamsdale, Naas, and others. 

In High Demand

Australia is no stranger to cannabis, even before legalizing medical cannabis approximately 36% of Australians have reportedly tried cannabis before.

In 2020, the legal, medicinal cannabis market in Australia was valued at $41.2 million USD and the budding industry is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32.7% from 2021 to 2028. 

Medical Cannabis

About 126,500 applications to access medical cannabis in Australia have been approved since 2016, as of May 2021.

That number is expected to reach 670,000 patients by 2030. 

For reference, The United States has over 3 million medical cannabis patients. However, you can’t equally compare the two countries, considering the United States has been processing medical cannabis patients since approximately 1997; when California first installed a medical program. 

Why Cannabis?

2020 research compiled data from 1,388 Australian respondents following cannabis legalization about why they use medical cannabis (numbers are rounded):

  • 9% for sleep
  • 4% for cancer
  • 5% for neurological reasons 
  • 36% of patients used for pain
  • 33% treated mental health conditions

In contrast to the 36% of people who are consuming cannabis for pain in Australia, a 2019 study found 62% of American medical cannabis patients seek relief from pain by consuming cannabis.

As far as the preferred method of consuming cannabis, 71% of medical cannabis patients in Australia prefer inhalation with approximately 27% of medical patients preferring oral methods of administration. 

Per the same study, medical patients in Australia spent an average of $59.9 USD each week to obtain medical cannabis products.

That said, some Aussies are paying up to $600/month to obtain cannabis.

Illegal vs Legal Sources

Just 2.7% of respondents had access to legally-prescribed medical cannabis.

Cost, disinterest from the medical professionals, and stigma associated with cannabis were the main barriers to obtain legal medical cannabis products.

So far, more than 50 medical cannabis businesses have launched across Australia.

33 of these organizations, to be specific, can “extract and purify raw cannabis for medicinal purposes”, according to the above-linked October 2021 report by MedTech and Pharma Growth Center. 

Growing Support

Like the U.S, Canada, and many other countries, the support to legalize cannabis for adult use purposes in Australia continues to increase every year.

In 2019, 41.1% of Australians indicated they support legalizing cannabis for adult use purposes, a significant jump from the 26% mark in 2013. 

Cannabis has become more accessible in Australia since then, and the country’s Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved medical cannabis applications for patients with various conditions, including depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and PTSD. 

Looking Forward

Cannabis has the means to become big business in Australia.

Currently, much of Australia’s cannabis is imported, however, long term it only makes sense that Australia would seek to mitigate this dependency on other nations for medical cannabis, in favor of focusing on domestic production.

We do know 22 publicly listed Australian cannabis companies spent $62 million on research & development in a span of 12 months, such that there’s certainty no shortage of interest from companies to invest in the region.

Our Take

Australia has made very significant progress when it comes to allowing adults to access cannabis products in recent years, however, with just over 40% of the population supporting legalizing cannabis it’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty when exactly when can expect all Australians to have access to cannabis.

In the meantime, there’s much progress to be made when it comes to providing patients with access to medical cannabis, which historically has served as a very significant stepping stone to in turn provide much broader access to cannabis.