As a sure sign of the softening stance towards cannabis in Australia, especially its medicinal branch, MMJ PhytoTech (ASX: MMJ) has pulled the trigger on investing A$1 million in exchange for a 16.7% ownership stake in Biologics Research Institute Australia Pty Ltd.
Biologics Research Institute Australia is the owner of Cannabis Access, currently the leading online portal for medical cannabis access in Australia.
Cannabis Access is an officially mandated portal with direct access to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for both patients and healthcare professionals.
The portal actively encourages both patients and doctors to visit the portal at ‘cannabisaccess.com.au’, in order to further promote the use of medical cannabis to treat a variety of ailments in Australia.
As of October 2016, Australian policymakers passed legislation allowing the legal supply of medicinal cannabis products in Australia.
However, newly-legalised medicines including cannabis must first be tested via clinical trials and approved prior to doctors being allowed to write prescriptions independently.
Since clinical trials can sometimes take years, a government body (the TGA) was mandated to offer several “interim pathways” for patients to gain early access to the medical cannabis products, thereby mitigating the potential risks of misuse.
The advance of medical cannabis
Currently, the TGA’s fastest access pathway for medicinal cannabis is the Special Access Scheme Category B (SAS B). Under this scheme, “specialist doctors” must submit a patient request, after which approval from the TGA is given within 1 to 6 days on a case-by-case basis.
The Cannabis Access portal currently has 500 Australian healthcare professionals (doctors and pharmacists) signed with the numbers growing quickly given the rapidly softening stance of government legislation in both Australia and further afield overseas.
Given the wholesale changes in cannabis legislation currently ongoing in other Commonwealth countries such as Canada, the UK, as well as the US, Australia’s ruling political elite have been left with no choice but to follow suit, or else face growing discontent from its citizenry and opening the door to substantial market arbitrage opportunities for astute entrepreneurs.
“At the moment there are significant challenges for Australian patients who want to access medical cannabis and doctors who want to prescribe it. Cannabis Access is strongly positioned to address these challenges and we are proud to support them,” said Jason Conroy, chief executive officer of MMJ PhytoTech.
With the political rigmarole still ongoing, the number of healthcare professionals signing up for Cannabis Direct is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years.
MMJ PhytoTech has embarked on somewhat of an acquisition spree in recent months with a deal to acquire a notable stake in Canadian pot company Dosscan earlier this year. The investment further adds to its C$2 million investment in WeedMe in December last year.
“We are delighted to have the support of MMJ as we roll out our strategy to work with doctors throughout Australia and make it easier for them to prescribe medical cannabis. This investment is an endorsement of our strategy and provides us with the capital needed to accelerate our programme,” said Giles Craig, executive chairman of Cannabis Access.
“Based on mature markets for medical cannabis access such as California, we estimate the addressable market in Australia to be around 500,000 patients. Currently, there are only 500 patients who are legally using medical cannabis in Australia at a time when we understand up to 100,000 patients are accessing it through other means. We are working on a number of exciting initiatives targeting this large addressable market and will announce these as they come to fruition,” Mr Craig added.