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Australia ‘missing out’ on nutraceutical cannabis extract market due to current federal laws;Key players in the emerging industrial hemp business say Australia is missing a golden opportunity to develop a nutraceuticals industry based on the non-psychoactive ingredients in the cannabis plant.
New research suggests that so-called cannabidiols or CBDs are found in plants grown for fibre or seed grain and they can treat a wide range of medical problems including serious forms of epilepsy.
But under Australian law, growers cannot harvest this material unless they are licensed by the Federal Office for Drug Control under strict security conditions.
Last January Health Minister Greg Hunt gave the green light for a medical cannabis industry in Australia.
Since then 19 licenses have been issued for medical cannabis cultivation and another 13 for cannabis narcotic manufacture.
But fewer than a thousand Australians have access to cannabis medication through their doctors and none of the imported products they have used are clinically proven.
The all-powerful American Federal Drug Agency only approved its first prescription medication derived from cannabis in June. Epidiolex has been found to reduce seizues in paediatric epilepsy.
Some of Australia’s largest producers of hemp seed food say the current laws shut them out of a potentially lucrative nutraceutical market where CBDs are sold in whole-of-plant cannabis extracts.
The products would have low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the mind-altering cannabinol.
CEO of Hemp Foods Australia, Paul Benhaim, said his parent company Elixinol Global, sold CBD products without restriction in the United States.
“What we sell in the US is hemp derived CBD supplements, which can be sold over the counter, it’s sold in health food stores, it’s completely safe for many people to consume,” Mr Benhaim said.
Andrew Kavasilas is another leading player in the hemp food industry. His company Vita Hemp hopes to manufacture 1,500 tonnes of hemp seed into food and oil products by March next year. Although Vita Hemp’s parent company is licensed to grow and manufacture medical cannabis, its food growers could not exploit the CBDs in their crops