Australians are running out of medical marijuana, and many will have nowhere to turn but the black market.
The number of medical cannabis products being approved via the Special Access Scheme B-portal (SAS-B) continues to rise, with February’s numbers hitting an all-time high of over 8,000 prescriptions.
Ordinarily, increased demand for medical cannabis prescriptions would be great for the fledgling Australian cannabis industry, however, many are unable to have their prescriptions filled due to a cannabis shortage throughout the country.
Moreover, the legal medicinal cannabis market is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cannabis users in the country, as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported that over 11.6% of the population have recently used illicit cannabis — making it the most used illicit substance in Australia.
As such, many medical cannabis patients may have to turn to the illicit market to have their needs met.
Over 90% of prescriptions and approvals are being supplied by imported products, and, according to CannaBiz, it can take “three months or more from the time an Australian company requests an import permit from the Office of Drug Control (ODC) to when Health Canada (where most flower is from) issues a corresponding export permit.”
Put simply, Australia’s dependence upon imported cannabis, combined with the bureaucratic mess that is both Australia and Canada’s respective cannabis policies, all combine to prevent Australians from having easy access to medicinal cannabis.
Cassandra Hunt, MD at Freshleaf Analytics said that “in Q1 we saw a lot of disruption to the patient population due to product companies running out of stock. This was largely related to supply chain distributions — covid delays and import permit approval lag. The problems were compounded by the stock-out domino effect — one company has a stock out and their patients migrate to another company creating a stock out at that company, and so on.
“Until industry supply chains mature we expect this type of risk to persist.”