Australia will soon be joining the medical cannabis revolution. Its federal government has moved to legalize marijuana for medical and scientific purposes, and a Roy Morgan Research poll shows that 91 percent of Australians agree that medical marijuana should be legalized.
The poll, which was released on Monday, asked 644 Australians 14 years of age or older whether the use of marijuana for medical purposes should be made legal or not, with only 7 percent not voting in favor.
Roy Morgan Research CEO Michele Levine told The Guardian that she was not surprised to find the strongest support from those aged 50 and older, as “[t]his group is most susceptible to several of the conditions that medicinal marijuana can provide relief from: Parkinson’s disease, cancer, glaucoma and more.”
The poll results were released less than two weeks after Australia’s federal government announced plans to amend the Narcotic Drug Act 1967 to allow cannabis to be grown for medical and scientific purposes, without breaching international drug treaties.
“This Government is incredibly sympathetic to the suffering of those Australians with debilitating illnesses and we want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available,” Health Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.
Under current Australian laws, marijuana is classified as an illegal drug, and while penalties vary from state to state, the growth, use, possession or sale of it is punishable by a fine or jail time.
Even so, some Australian states are already taking steps toward medical marijuana research and development. For example, the New South Wales government just announced that it is committed to spending $9 million to support medical cannabis clinical trials for terminally ill adult cancer patients, making it the first Australian state to do so.
The government of Victoria is taking a slightly different route. It’s looking to legalize access to locally manufactured medical cannabis products for patients with exceptional circumstances and severe symptoms from 2017 onward.
While the individual states don’t have the authority to set rules for the cultivation of cannabis and production of medical marijuana products, the move by the federal government will make it easier.
Medical marijuana stocks
As it stands, there are only three medical marijuana companies listed on the ASX, and two of them are transformed mining companies. The three companies are as follows: MMJ Phytotech (ASX:MMJ), Erin Resources (ASX:ERI) and the most recent addition to the roster, Capital Mining (ASX:CMY).
MMJ Phytotech completed a $15.5-million merger with Canadian MMJ Bioscience in June to become the first ASX-listed medical marijuana company. The company has been working to accelerate its entry into the Australian medical cannabis market, completing a $2-million share placement and beginning a Phase 1 clinical trial of tetrahyrocannabidiol (THC) and cannabidiol (CDB) oral capsules for the treatment of pain and spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients following the federal government’s announcement.
Then there is Erin Resources, a gold explorer that completed a reverse takeover of Israel-based MGC Pharmaceuticals in August; MGC is a medical and cosmetic cannabis company that received two licenses in June to grow, process and trade its cannabis products in Europe.
Capital Mining, the third company, is currently in the process of entering the Australian medical marijuana market through the acquisition of a group of US and Canadian companies, including Denver-based Nutrawerx, Canadian Broken Coast Cannabis and Cannan Growersone.
Those interested in the medical cannabis space will no doubt be watching to see how legalization in Australia moves ahead and what other companies move into the ever-growing market moving forward.
Securities Disclosure: I, Kristen Moran, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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