A summary from Australia’s leading authority on medical and therapeutic products, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), revealed that the nation’s medicinal marijuana sector saw significant progress in the first half of 2023. Figures from this agency indicate a remarkable 120% increase in approvals for medicinal marijuana via certified physicians, known as Authorized Prescribers (AP).
Why the Surge?
The significant uptick in AP approvals can be attributed to the progressive increase in the number of authorized prescribers. These medical professionals, vested with the authority to recommend specific cannabis-product formats under five distinct categories, have grown in number consistently over the past few years. The aggregate number of medical practitioners onboarded under the AP scheme jumped from 175 in 2020 to a staggering 1,454 by 2022.
Breaking down the approvals by category for the first half of 2023, the data suggests:
- 98% CBD dominated with roughly 58,000 prescriptions.
- 60%-98% CBD saw 38,000 approvals.
- 40%-60% CBD had 40,000 approvals.
- 60%-98% THC secured 18,000 approvals.
- More than 98% THC, surprisingly, saw the most significant demand with 145,000 prescriptions.
However, it’s important to note that AP approvals provide just a snapshot and are not the sole metric to gauge the market’s health.
Beyond APs, the Special Access Scheme (SAS-B) route is another mechanism through which patients can acquire medical cannabis. After peaking at almost 122,000 approvals in 2021, this pathway saw a slight dip in 2022, registering 117,000 approvals, as more patients opted for the AP route. However, 2023 has already seen 87,000 approvals via the SAS-B channel.
These channels for accessing cannabis have proven effective in deterring illegal marijuana operations and safeguarding the health of consumers. Oral liquid forms of medical cannabis under the SAS-B emerged as the most popular products, with 44,345 approved applications. Dried herb and inhalation followed with 32,461 and 6,073 approved applications, respectively.
When pondering over the legality of cannabis internationally, Australia’s evolving stance, marked by these expanding routes of access, represents a proactive approach toward harnessing the therapeutic potential of the plant.
Valuing the Market
While the Canadian counterpart, Statistics Canada, tracks medical cannabis sales, the Australian Bureau of Statistics currently does not. This absence leaves a slight void in estimating the exact value of the blossoming market. Nonetheless, Rhys Cohen of the Victoria-based Penington Institute approximated that Australian patients spent around 250 million Australian dollars (equivalent to $167 million) on prescription medical cannabis products in 2022.
Although this does not highlight the cost of cannabis in Australia, it provides excellent insight into the future of the country’s marijuana market. Cohen, who serves as the global partnerships and engagement adviser at this eminent drug-policy organization, thus paints a promising picture of the market’s potential.
With the market in such robust health, there’s a growing emphasis on compliant packaging to ensure product quality and safety. Furthermore, the burgeoning demand also signifies a potential rise in the market for cannabis accessories as patients and consumers look for diverse ways to administer and utilize their prescriptions.
The vigor exhibited by Australia’s medical cannabis market in the first half of 2023 is a testament to its potential and the nation’s progressive regulatory framework. With continual evolution in access routes and robust growth rates, the land down under might just be on its way to becoming a global trailblazer in the cannabis domain.