On February 1, the over-the-counter (OTC) sale of CBD products became legal in Australia, following a schedule adjustment in December by the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Products must still be approved by the TGA and be included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). The daily dose must not exceed 150 mg.
At the time of the TGA announcement there were no CBD products that met the criteria for OTC sales, though an increase in the number of applications for inclusion in the ARTG was expected in the wake of the TGA’s announcement. At the moment, only one cannabis product (nabiximols) is approved by the TGA. However, unapproved products can still be obtained with a doctor’s prescription, and this is true of products containing THC as well.
Regulation of medical cannabis varies according to the state or territory. In Tasmania, for instance, a doctor may only prescribe cannabis when conventional treatment has failed, a limitation that is not present in other Australian jurisdictions.
As for recreational cannabis, the legal framework across the country is generally prohibitionist. The most liberal regime is found in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), where it is lawful to possess up to 50 grams of dried cannabis or up to 150 grams of fresh cannabis. In addition, growing up to two cannabis plants at home is permitted, with a maximum of four plants per household. However, even these relatively modest permissions are contrary to Australian federal law (Americans: does this sound familiar?).
The ACT is smaller and less populated than any of Australia’s six states, so we should not expect it to be a legal trendsetter. Instead it will probably take a move by one of the larger states to kick off a legalization wave such as the one we are witnessing in the United States.
It does not appear that New South Wales (NSW) will provide the spark, at least not until its next elections in 2023. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she is “comfortable with the laws where they are” and suggested that states like Colorado were “regretting” legalization (which we should note appears at odds with the Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ views on the subject).
Things appear somewhat more promising in Victoria, where Premier Dan Andrews is bullish about the state’s medical cannabis industry. (As an aside, we just love the images of Andrews visiting a Victorian grow.) Back in 2014, Andrews expressed opposition to the legalization of recreational cannabis, but as far as we can tell he has not made similar comments in recent years. And as we often point out in these pages, a few years are an eternity when it comes to cannabis policy. Victoria will hold elections next year: Will a fourth Andrews term bring with it a major turning point for cannabis in Vic and Australia? (Aussies: We would love to hear your thoughts on this.)
With an Australian lawyer on our international cannabis team, we will certainly be keeping an eye out for legal developments Down Under. The prospect of recreational cannabis legalization, even just in some Australian states, is an exciting one—but cannabis businesses in the United States and elsewhere should not wait until that happens to seek out opportunities.
As it is, the continent represents a CBD and medical cannabis market of more than 25 million people. It is true that access to the entire market requires dealing with eight regulatory frameworks in addition to the federal one, but keep in mind that NSW and Victoria have between them about 15 million residents. Add Queensland and that figure rises to 20 million, more than any American state except California, Texas, and Florida.
Yes, we are trying to tempt you.