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Cannabis Stocks Soar More Than 130% in Australia

March 24, 2017,

Shares of companies involved in the cultivation, production and research of medicinal marijuana have on average soared more than 130 percent in Sydney this year. That’s six times higher than their peers in the U.S. and Canada. The surge was sparked by Australia easing restrictions on imports of cannabis to treat illnesses from epilepsy to cancer.

Australia’s nascent cannabis sector is a sliver compared to the U.S., where more than half of states have legalized medical uses of the plant. While that allows plenty of room for growth, companies with unproven business models and patchy cash flows remain at the mercy of regulators, according to Peak Asset Management LLC. Only Queensland allows specialist medical workers to prescribe pot-related products to people who don’t respond to conventional medicine.

“The market is excited by the potential upside it could bring,” said Niv Dagan, Melbourne-based executive director at Peak Asset Management. Dagan has a very small chunk of his more than A$100 million ($76 million) fund exposed to Australian pot stocks. “The key risk we see is obviously regulatory risk,” he said by phone.

Investor enthusiasm isn’t abating. The Hydroponics Co. Ltd., which makes lighting rigs and glasshouses that help grow cannabis plants, is raising money for an initial public offering next month. The A$8 million share sale is almost three times oversubscribed, according to the company’s chairman Alan Beasley. The stock will list with the ticker THC, shorthand for Tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient that gets cannabis users high.

Initial demand for medicinal marijuana in Australia could top A$100 million a year, a University of Sydney report estimated. If cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals become more mainstream within the decade, demand could grow to A$300 million, the report’s author Michael Katz said. That’s still a tiny fraction of the U.S. market, which could be worth nearly $21 billion by 2020, Morgans Financial Ltd. said, citing ArcView Market Research.

Read more about how one hedge made a mint from investing in U.S. listed pot stocks.

The Australian industry players are small, with an average market capitalization of less than A$80 million, even after a 136 percent increase this year, according to a Bloomberg index based on a similar gauge from Red Leaf Securities of 10 firms. That gauge was up 1.9 percent as of 11:22 a.m. on Friday in Sydney.

The returns smash the 21 percent advance on the Bloomberg Intelligence Global Cannabis Competitive Peers Index this year, as well as the less than 1 percent gain by the S&P/ASX 200 Index.

Stemcell United Ltd., which is involved in extracting traditional Chinese medicine from plants, briefly boosted its market capitalization to about A$150 million this month from less than A$5 million, and is now around A$92 million. The company said it will move its focus to medicinal cannabis and appointed Nevil Schoenmakers, known for his work in cannabis genetics, as an adviser.

Shares of MMJ PhytoTech Ltd. are up 191 percent this year. In addition to Australia, the company operates in markets including the U.S. and Israel that have regulated medicinal cannabis laws. Auscann Group Holdings Ltd. is up 207 percent since its IPO and counts Toronto-listed Canopy Growth Corp. as its largest shareholder. Canopy became Canada’s first marijuana unicorn when its market capitalization surpassed $1 billion last year.

John Athanasiou, chief executive officer at Red Leaf Securities, a Sydney-based brokerage and advisory firm that’s managing the Hydroponics Co. share sale, is betting the rules surrounding medicinal cannabis will be relaxed further.

“The tea-leaves are definitely there,” Athanasiou said by phone, suggesting that cannabis may become as common as getting prescription medicine in the next five years.

High hopes for medical cannabis

April 7, 2017

Australians and Israelis were among the experts attending an important forum last week in Sydney about medical cannabis regulation.

EXPERTS from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, Netherlands and Canada gathered in Sydney last week for a three-day forum to discuss the regulation and administration of medical cannabis.

It was convened by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane, who accompanied then-premier Mike Baird on his trade mission to Israel in April 2016.

“Medical cannabis was one of the things that we discussed in Israel,” O’Kane told The AJN. “We were developing our work on it here at that time, and we were very interested to learn that Israel was completely revamping its system.”

Representing Israel at the forum was Associate Medical Director General to the Israeli Ministry of Health, Professor Arnon Afek, who told The AJN that Israeli doctors and scientists have been working for three years to formulate methodology that will allow the safe manufacture of medicinal cannabis products.

“We want to share this knowledge with our Australian friends and collaborate on this very important matter,” Afek said.

O’Kane said that she was impressed with the work that the Israelis are doing on how cannabis can be used for specific illnesses such as childhood epilepsy and cancer, and what compounds and dosages might be used in each instance.

“We’ve had productive discussions over the last year with our Israeli colleagues,” O’Kane said. “This week, those conversations have reached a new level at the forum. We discussed in great detail with several countries a variety of perspectives and we all found it very helpful.”

A Hebrew University team is currently working on The Green Book, which will lay out standard clinical practice for the administration of medicinal cannabis.

Professor Arnon Afek represented Israel at the forum.

“One of the innovations we’ve been working on is different types of inhalers, so that cannabis can be administered without the need to smoke,” Afek said.

“The most important thing we’ve learned from Australia is the importance of sharing knowledge.”

Afek has high praise for O’Kane and NSW Health Minster Brad Hazzard for attending the forum and confirming that Australia is taking education about medical cannabis seriously.

“The fact that the NSW health minister came to the conference is something that countries can learn from,” Afek said. “Politicians are responsible for policy, so them being present is important to drive the system forward.”

Afek said that the forum was a positive collaboration and a worthwhile exercise in data sharing between countries, adding that it was “an honour and a pleasure” to be in Sydney.

“The forum was a really great thing and I think that I was particularly impressed with the Israeli delegation and with their determination to continue the conversation and hold another forum,” O’Kane added.

“I was grateful for them and their contributions, which were fantastic.”

Medicinal cannabis legalisation can reduce opioid deaths, comedian Wil Anderson says

April 05 2017

Cannabis plants are seen in a greenhouse of Swiss cannabis producer KannaSwiss in Koelliken, Switzerland March 20, 2017. Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Comedian Wil Anderson has spoken about using medicinal cannabis on a regular basis as a remedy for osteoporosis that he has been suffering from for years. He emphasised that the product, should it be legalised in Australia, could save lives.

Speaking as a guest on The Project on Tuesday, the comedian said he hoped the country would legalise the drug soon. “Three million people have chronic pain in this country and it’s a thing where they normally will diagnose you open opioids, and there’s this amazing opioid addiction as a result,” he said.

He compared Australia with the United States, where medicinal marijuana is allowed, noting that deaths caused due to opiod addictions in some states have decreased by a third. Anderson made an appearance on US comic Doug Benson's “Getting Doug with High” Youtube show in 2014, where he was seen puffing on a weed pipe. Anderson has been prescribed heavy painkillers in the past, which, he said, resulted in “massive, serious side effects.”

According to a 2015 research, there has been a large increase in the number of people being treated for addition to painkillers like codeine and oxycodone in the nine years from 2002. The findings, gathered from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW, has prompted authorities to introduce changes regarding the administration of painkillers.

A few Australian states have launched trials for cannabis oil as a form of treatment of certain health issues. Nevertheless, the programs, being in their nascent stage, are heavily regulated.

Anderson’s comments concerning making access to medicinal cannabis easier come as doctors in the country find obtaining permission for prescribing the drug to patients suffering from chronic pain terribly difficult. As a result, the State Government is on the receiving end of immense pressure to make the access of the drug easier.

Draft South Australia Government guidelines dictate that the authority to prescribe medicinal cannabis lies solely with specialists. Although no specific criteria have been released, the doctor responsible for prescribing the drug should be an oncologist. Until now, three medical professionals have applied for approval to the state government to be allowed to prescribe the drug.

To be able to prescribe the product, the medical professional will need to get the approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the state Drugs of Dependence Unit (DDU). A spokesman for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said a Special Access Scheme B form is required to be filled to get the approval from TGA. “States and territories have their own legislation around access to medicinal cannabis, including what type of practitioner can prescribe,” the spokesman said.


April 7, 2017

In November 2016, the status of cannabis on a federal level went from being a ‘prohibited substance’, to a ‘controlled substance’. This has been a game changer in the medical cannabis movement for Australia.

We sit down with Elaine Darby – Managing Director of AusCann – an Australasian medical cannabis producer – to find out about the current status of medical cannabis supply and production on a state level. Professor Marco Falasca of Curtin University discusses his research in cancer treatments and outlines how our domestic clinical trials are taking us forwards.