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Cannabis in Australia 2023: Australia’s Medicinal Cannabis Sector Expands Despite Enduring Barriers

John Ryan, CEO of Penington Institute, said Australia is seeing a steady expansion of Australia’s medicinal cannabis sector, despite enduring barriers to access such as affordability and lack of knowledge among healthcare professionals.   

Launching Penington Institute’s second ever Cannabis in Australia report, Mr Ryan said this year has been a pivotal one for medicinal cannabis in Australia.  

“Access to medicinal cannabis has steadily increased in 2023, more than doubling the previous year’s tally. Penington Institute estimates Australians spent approximately $210 million on medicinal cannabis products in the first half of 2023,” Mr Ryan said. 

Professor Nicholas Lintzeris, a Penington Institute Board Member, specialist in addiction medicine and clinical researcher, said this growth was indicative of the untapped potential of medicinal cannabis in treating various health conditions, including cannabis use disorders.  

“A prescription for medicinal cannabis allows medical professionals to engage patients about their health; monitor potency, dosage, and frequency of use; and offer products free from toxic contaminants found in illicit cannabis,” Professor Lintzeris said. 

“Cannabis remains the most widely used illegal drug in the world, however our current model of prohibition means that we leave ‘quality control’ for the production, composition and distribution of cannabis in Australia largely to criminal gangs, whilst punishing people who use cannabis with criminal sanctions.” Mr Ryan said. 

Based on roughly 218 million occasions of cannabis use and the 66,000 cannabis-related arrests per year, Penington Institute estimates that for every 10,000 times that cannabis is used in Australia, there are only three arrests. 

Mr Ryan noted that the risk of encountering law enforcement is clearly ineffective at preventing people from consuming cannabis, and that Australia should emulate the growing number of countries implementing alternative models of managing cannabis.  

“By shifting from a criminalisation model to a regulated framework, we could see economic development, job creation in regional Australia, and substantial tax revenue to fund treatment and prevention of harm programs,” he said. 

Penington Institute continues to advocate for balanced cannabis policies, replacing fearmongering with evidence-based knowledge. “Our goal is to minimise health harms while moving away from counterproductive criminalisation,” said Mr Ryan.

Note to Editors: The report Cannabis in Australia 2023 is available to download here: https://www.penington.org.au/cannabis/cannabis-in-australia-2023/

For all media enquiries, contact Sofia Dedes on 0400 512 618 or Anika Hewett on 0412 007 086.  

Penington Institute connects lived experience with research to support cost-effective approaches that maximise community health and safety in relation to drugs, including pharmaceuticals and alcohol. For more information go to www.penington.org.au.

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