The global legal medical cannabis market is expanding, and the markets of the Asia-Pacific region are rapidly taking shape.

Over the past several years, the international community has reached a tipping point regarding the liberalization of cannabis across the globe. The number of legal jurisdictions that are making progress towards improving cannabis access at this very moment is truly unprecedented. Cannabis reform has become a global phenomenon. The wave of legalization that began in North America has been followed by Europe and South America, and now it’s happening in the Asia-Pacific markets. From Oceania to Southeast Asia, the ripple effect is evident as consumers and governments realize the potential that medical cannabis presents both socially and economically.

Established North American cannabis companies have a clear opportunity in new emerging markets. With an effective market entry strategy, established companies can leverage their operational experience to their advantage, strategically partnering with local players while establishing themselves as cornerstones of these international cannabis spaces. The process of entering a new national market is not without risk, however the benefits of first-mover advantage can be significant, providing a unique opportunity for major international companies.

 

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There are currently dozens of countries with active cannabis legalization efforts. So far, nearly all of these legislative efforts have focused on highly restrictive access to cannabis for medical purposes. However, as we’ve seen in many of the earliest legal cannabis markets, medical legislation in these new markets could serve as a precursor for further legal cannabis reform. As more medical cannabis markets open up around the world, the global medical cannabis industry could reach US$146.4 billion by the end of 2025, according to an April 2018 report by Grand View Research.

Emerging Asia-Pacific cannabis markets

The first country in the Asia-Pacific region to see legislative movement on the cannabis front was Australia. After legalizing medical cannabis in February 2016, Australia’s medical cannabis landscape is still developing. Lawmakers are still in the process of building a regulatory system for production and access to cannabis, but medical cannabis is increasingly becoming available to Australian patients who need it. While approximately seven people per day are being approved for medical cannabis in Australia, long-term projections suggest the Oceanic cannabis market is expected to boom.

According to Prohibition Partners’ Oceania Cannabis Report, the combined Australia-New Zealand market could reach US$8.7 billion by 2028. The early days of the Australian cannabis market could still offer plenty of early stage growth opportunities for established companies moving into the land down under.

New Zealand’s cannabis reform is moving at a remarkably fast pace. The New Zealand parliament voted to legalize medical cannabis in late 2018, and already recreational legalization could be within sight. Along with medical cannabis legislation, the New Zealand federal government announced that a referendum will be held alongside the 2020 federal election regarding adult-use recreational cannabis legalization. According to the NZ Drug Foundation, the country’s cannabis market could bring in an estimated $240 million yearly in tax revenue.

Medical legalization in Australia and New Zealand could help pave the way for both countries to become cannabis production hubs for international markets. Oceania’s proximity to Southeast Asia puts cannabis producers operating in these countries in a unique position to serve emerging Asian markets.

In late 2018, Thailand became the first of those. Thailand is a country with a rich cannabis cultural history. For centuries, Thailand was known for its unique cannabis strains and cannabis was an integral part of traditional Thai medicine and cuisine. As was the case for cannabis in most countries, Thailand’s legal cannabis market was previously hindered due to pressure from western political influences. In December 2018, the Thai military government unanimously voted to legalize medical cannabis use, becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so.

In recent years, the ruling party in the Philippines has stepped up its involvement in the war on drugs. However, there is hope that soon medical cannabis may not be included in this harsh policy; its use is supported by President Rodrigo Duterte. A bill to legalize and regulate medical cannabis was approved in the Philippine House of Representatives in January 2019. The measure also calls for the creation of a Medical Cannabis Compassionate Center, which would serve as the starting point for the creation of a legal cannabis industry.

Cannabis laws are being reformed in unexpected and economically important jurisdictions as well. Certain medical cannabis treatments became legal in South Korea in March 2019, a noteworthy development considering that the country has historically been very conservative in regards to drug policy. Imports of medical cannabis products are tightly restricted by the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, allowing specific treatments that have been approved and marketed in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, including Sativex, Epidiolex, Marinol and Cesamet. Despite these restrictions, South Korea’s progressive attitude towards cannabis has been seen as a significant step forward.

International cannabis companies looking to Asia-Pacific

The international cannabis market is a logical next step for many North American cannabis producers. Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth (TSX:WEED) has already set its sights on the early South Korean cannabis market. As a first step, the company has begun the process of hiring a country manager for South Korea to help build the company’s strategy for entering the brand new market.

Cannabis producers with international aspirations have recognized the opportunity presented by these emerging Asia-Pacific markets. Canadian cannabis producer MYM Nutraceuticals (CSE:MYM) is positioning itself to take full advantage of the opportunity. The company has established its MYM Australia division, which includes a head office on Australia’s Gold Coast and 400 hectares of outdoor medical cannabis cultivation in the country. The move gives MYM a foothold in the Asia-Pacific region, positioning the company to serve Australia’s emerging medical cannabis market and to export product to the Thai and Filipino markets.

Takeaway

2018 was a huge year for cannabis legalization efforts around the world, and so far 2019 is shaping up to be even bigger. As more jurisdictions around the world begin to legalize cannabis, established North American cannabis companies are being given a unique opportunity to expand into new markets.


This INNSpired article was written according to INN editorial standards to educate investors.

Progressive Planet Solutions Inc. (TSXV: PLAN) (“PLAN” or “Progressive Planet”), announces that, further to its news releases dated December 22, 2020 and January 7, 2021 the Company has closed its non-brokered private placement financing comprising of 7,500,000 units, at $0.10 per unit, for total gross proceeds of $750,000 .

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The Australian cannabis market has been maturing since medical marijuana was federally legalised in 2016.

The next year, Food Standards Australia New Zealand legalised low-THC hemp food for human consumption in Australia. The country went on to legalise medical marijuana exports in 2018, allowing medicinal marijuana products developed in Australia to be exported to licenced recipients in countries where the drug is legal.

Recreational cannabis remains federally illegal in the country, but recent legislation shows the door may be opening. In 2019, the Australian Capital Territory passed a bill allowing for the possession and growth of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The law went into effect on January 31, 2020.

More recently, in late 2020, the Therapeutic Goods Administration greenlit the sale of low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) through over-the-counter methods without a prescription. The ruling from the Australian regulatory agency is expected to officially come into effect in February 2021.

With these and other changes in the works, Australia’s cannabis industry is projected to have long-term potential. The legal cannabis market in Oceania is expected to be worth US$1.55 billion by 2024, with Australia accounting for 79 percent of the region’s market, Prohibition Partners forecasts.

According to a study from FreshLeaf Analytics, the value of the medical market in Australia reached AU$95 million in 2020, and the firm expects revenue to jump again to over AU$150 million in 2021. In short, Australia’s role in the global cannabis industry will certainly continue to grow.

Here the Investing News Network profiles 10 ASX cannabis stocks with market caps between AU$30 million and AU$225 million. All ASX cannabis stocks below are listed in order of market capitalization from largest to smallest, with data compiled using TradingView’s stock screener on January 12, 2021.

1. Creso Pharma (ASX:CPH)

Market cap: AU$209.83 million

Creso Pharma was the first company to import medical cannabis into Australia and the first to launch these products in Switzerland for people, as well as animals. The cannabis company’s anibidiol product was the first hemp CBD complementary feed in animal health thanks to a partnership with Virbac Switzerland. Creso Pharma has also launched cannaQIX in Switzerland; it was the first CBD nutraceutical in human health.

The company’s medicinal cannabis product lines cover therapeutics, nutraceuticals, animal health, lifestyle and topicals.

2. Cann Group (ASX:CAN)

Market cap: AU$176.84 million

Cann Group provides a range of medicinal cannabis products for patients in Australia and globally. In 2017, the company was granted Australia’s first cannabis research licence, as well as the first medicinal marijuana cultivation licence. Cann Group partners with leading medical scientists in Australia to research and harness the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids, terpenes and other bioactive constituents of cannabis.

The company has secured supply agreements in global cannabis markets, including the UK, Germany and other European segments.

3. Incannex Healthcare (ASX:IHL)

Market cap: AU$166.42 million

Incannex Healthcare is a clinical-stage cannabinoid medicine company with global export capacity. It has four clinical programs underway for the development of a variety of cannabis medicinal products aimed at major unmet medical needs, including obstructive sleep apnea, traumatic brain injury/concussion, sepsis-associated acute respiratory distress syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder.

In 2020, the company worked to advance its clinical trials. By the second half of the year, cannabinoid products accounted for Incannex’s entire revenue stream.

4. Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:BOT)

Market cap: AU$131.37 million

Botanix Pharmaceuticals has a product pipeline that includes three advanced clinical programs using synthetic cannabidiol for the topical treatment of serious skin diseases and for antimicrobial applications. The company also has an exclusive licence to use a proprietary drug-delivery system called Permetrex for direct skin delivery of pharmaceuticals.

Botanix Pharmaceuticals’ programs are focused on treating acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis and microbial infection. The company secured a clear development path for its BTX 1801 synthetic cannabidiol antimicrobial product after the successful completion of a pre-investigational new drug meeting with the US Food and Drug Administration.

5. Althea Group Holdings (ASX:AGH)

Market cap: AU$114.2 million

Althea Group Holdings takes the concept of medical cannabis a step further with its work as a pharmaceutical-grade cannabis supplier. In addition to offering relief through accessible medical cannabis, the company is implementing components of the plant in its research on advanced drugs.

Althea has successfully expanded into the global cannabis market with a wholesale supply agreement to import a range of Althea-branded finished products for sale and distribution in South Africa beginning in Q2 2021. This agreement came on the heels of the news that the company is slated to become the first commercial supplier of Australian medicinal cannabis extract products to the German market, with all necessary licences for sale and distribution granted by the German government.

6. Zelira Therapeutics (ASX:ZLD)

Market cap: AU$113.79 million

Zelira Therapeutics’ efforts are on unmet clinical needs and on using medicinal cannabis to treat a range of diseases and disorders. Its most common target areas include pain, anxiety and sleep.

Zelira is largely focused on developing treatment options using plant-based medicinal marijuana, and currently has three clinical-stage programs with a focus on insomnia, autism and opioid reduction. The company is also conducting a pre-clinical research program to test cannabinoids in breast, brain and pancreatic cancer.

7. Medlab Clinical (ASX:MDC)

Market cap: AU$75.51 million

Medlab Clinical is a medical research and development company focused on novel biotherapeutics such as nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. The company is also developing pharmaceutical cannabis products.

In early 2020, Medlab Clinical launched the NanaBis Observation Study in Australia. NanaBis is a cannabis-based pain treatment drug that may prove useful as an alternative to opioid medication. It is also being used to investigate cancer pain management.

8. BOD Australia (ASX:BDA)

Market cap: AU$49.25 million

BOD Australia is focused on cannabis and hemp-related products. It develops, distributes and markets health and skincare products created using plant-based extracts in Australia. The company secured a foothold in the European cannabis market in 2020 with a AU$200,000 purchase order for four Swiss-branded hemp seed oil products to be sold in France, the Netherlands and the UK.

BOD Australia’s reach in Australia ranges from selling prescription and over-the-counter products to more than 1,000 outlets, such as pharmacies, retail stores and healthcare chains. It also has distribution agreements with two pharmacy wholesalers in Australia.

9. IDT Australia (ASX:IDT)

Market cap: AU$42.47 million

One of Australia’s oldest listed life science companies, IDT Australia is a pharmaceutical manufacturing company with extensive experience in the development and production of pharmaceutical products. Through its GMP-compliant facilities, the company provides full-scale services for new drug development, plus scale-up and commercial active drug manufacturing for local and international clients.

IDT Australia’s clients include Cann Group; IDT Australia is the manufacturer of the medical cannabis products that are a part of two of Cann Group’s export supply agreements with European and UK partners.

10. MMJ Group Holdings (ASX:MMJ)

Market cap: AU$31.04 million

MMJ Group Holdings has a wide range of cannabis investments, including healthcare products, technology, infrastructure, logistics, processing, cultivation, equipment, retail and research and development.

Among other companies, it has invested in Harvest One Cannabis (TSXV:HVT,OTCQB:HRVOF), which develops health and wellness products; Fire & Flower Holdings (TSXV:FAF,OTCQX:FFLWF), a recreational cannabis retailer that’s developed a variety of cannabis products and accessories; and MediPharm Labs (TSXV:LABS,OTQQX:MEDIF), a cannabis extraction company that received its cannabis oil production licence from Health Canada in 2018. MediPharm Labs has launched cannabis extraction services in Australia.

Investor takeaway

The presence of these ASX-listed cannabis companies shows that the cannabis industry in Australia is undoubtedly growing, as are investment opportunities in Australia’s cannabis industry. While recreational marijuana remains illegal in the land down under, the medical cannabis industry is thriving, making that side of the sector worth considering.

So far, Australia has no timeline attached to the legality of recreational use of marijuana, but it will be a story to watch over the coming years for those interested in the space.

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Legal cannabis is spreading. According to a new report by Grand View Research, the global legal marijuana market is expected to reach US$73.6 billion by 2027 with a compound annual growth rate of 18.1 percent.

A survey of over 1,000 US consumers found that the modern cannabis user is largely representative of the general population. Moreover, cannabis consumption today blurs the lines between strictly recreational or medical. In fact, more than 50 percent of consumers report using cannabis for both purposes. As THC and CBD products make their way into an even wider array of product categories, our frame of reference for the modern cannabis user will continue to evolve.

In 2019, the medical cannabis market took home a leading revenue share of 71 percent, driven by the widespread adoption of cannabis as a pharmaceutical alternative for a wide range of conditions, including cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and more. A growing need for effective pain management therapies is expected to boost product demand even further.

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Khiron Life Sciences Corp. (TSXV:KHRN) is a vertically-integrated medical cannabis company fully licensed to conduct its core operations in Colombia.Send me an Investor Kit

Major telehealth platforms in the medical cannabis industry

Telehealth represents the intersection between innovative technology and the forefront of medical science. While remote medical practice saw its beginnings more than half a century ago, recent technological advancements have connected more patients to physicians than ever before.

In the US, platforms like NuggMD and IndicaMD provide patients with an online medical cannabis card that enables remote purchase of the drug. Patients can meet with physicians over secure video chat and can be approved to access cannabis within minutes. Physicians typically follow-up with patients by email, recommending the types of cannabis that would best alleviate their ailments and ensuring that they don’t purchase the wrong products. Other platforms exist to oversee the rapid delivery of cannabis and hemp products to patients across participating states.

Other parts of the world are undergoing the same transition. It has been more than eight years since Colombia — a country that represents more than a quarter of the world’s total export quotas — decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the drug, and roughly four years since the country legalized medical cannabis. In 2019, Colombia’s Constitutional Court overruled a ban on the public consumption of cannabis, which many considered a stepping stone toward full legalization. Recently, Colombia became one of the first countries in the world to extend national health insurance for patients requiring medical cannabis as a first-line therapy.

Khiron Life Sciences (TSXV:KHRN) was the first firm in Colombia authorized to sell both high and low THC formulations of medical cannabis. The company owns a telehealth platform that has accounted for over 5,600 medical cannabis prescriptions issued to date. Additionally, in June 2020 the company’s Doctor Zerenia telehealth platform was responsible for 14 percent of Khiron’s total medical consultations.

Since becoming the first company to fill medical cannabis prescriptions in Colombia, Khiron reports that 92 percent of its patients have experienced a marked improvement in their primary condition after four months of treatment. In light of these results, the Government of Colombia issued a directive that Khiron’s medical cannabis products and clinic services be covered by the country’s major health insurance providers. While countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic have taken similar legislative actions, a key difference in Colombia is that cannabis is considered a first line therapy with a vast array of applicable medical conditions. With more than 94 percent of Colombia’s population carrying health insurance policies, Colombia is quickly becoming one of the most favourable jurisdictions in the world for patient access; moreover, it has been shown that patient uptake is significantly increased by insurance coverage.

The next step forward for telehealth platforms includes opportunities such as virtual patient education and the fast, reliable delivery of essential drugs such as medical marijuana. Virtual care is also expected to expand across different types of patients, including those requiring intensive care. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many long-term care facilities have already adapted remote patient monitoring to maintain the safety of staff and patients.

The focus: Accessibility and improving patient outcomes

Medical marijuana has the power to improve patient outcomes across demographics. In the wake of groundbreaking research, patients, physicians and retailers are working together to increase the drug’s accessibility for patients who require relief from a range of health conditions. Telehealth platforms have been instrumental in not only increasing accessibility to medical marijuana, but also in improving quality of life across diverse populations of people.

A recent study completed by Canopy Growth (NASDAQ:CGC,TSX:WEED) in November 2020 found the absence of long-term toxicity despite long-term usage of CBD in a preclinical model, supporting the advancement of recent initiatives aimed at discovering CBD’s full range of therapeutic benefits. While CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) offer many of the same benefits, high levels of THC are responsible for most of cannabis’s psychoactive effects.

While the chronic pain segment dominated the medical cannabis market in 2019, application toward mental illness is expected to witness the fastest growth over the seven-year forecast period. Worldwide, a growing number of people suffer from depression, anxiety and other debilitating mental conditions with few low-risk pharmaceutical alternatives.

Medical cannabis is also becoming more popular among older adults. A recent study highlighted that cannabis use among individuals aged 65 and older has been steadily increasing, a trend that is consistent with reports from physicians who recommend cannabis in their daily practices. In the face of growing public acceptance and reduced stigma, we are beginning to see an increasing number of older adults rely on cannabis for relief against chronic pain, insomnia, neuropathy, anxiety and other conditions that traditionally call upon pharmaceuticals.

Much of the momentum in the medical cannabis market can be owed to the rise of telehealth platforms and health digitization efforts, increasing ease of access and promoting transparency. Over the next decade, legalization, increased awareness and the rise of remote medicine are expected to facilitate growth, creating lucrative opportunities for market stakeholders.

Takeaway

Telehealth platforms represent one of the easiest ways for patients, providers and retailers to collaborate remotely and fulfill needs faster. As more physicians and policymakers begin to recognize digital health tools as an advantage for maximizing efficiency and safety in health care, existing medical cannabis platforms are well-positioned to take advantage of a large-scale digital transition.

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 BioHarvest Sciences Inc. (CSE: BHSC) (the “Company” or “BioHarvest”) invites its shareholders and the general public to join a Live Video Conference (“Webinar”) on Thursday, January 21st, 2021 at 2:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (11:00 AM Pacific Standard Time). Ilan Sobel, CEO of BHSC, will host the event and discuss progress on Bioharvest’s Growth Plan, which will include highlights of the 2020 milestones achieved, key business capabilities built, and will provide an important overview of 2021 Priorities.

The presentation will be approximately 35 minutes, followed by a live question and answer session.

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