Medical cannabis approvals in Australia have remained steady amid the Coronavirus pandemic, new data reveals. According to figures released by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the national agency approved more than 7,300 collective applications between March and April under Special Access Scheme (SAS) Category B.
In January and February, before the pandemic gripped the global economy, the agency recorded slightly above 6,700 overall approvals in total. In mid-March, the country’s jurisdictions began to announce public health emergencies in a bid to mitigate the spread of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Following the orders, “nonessential” industries faced restricted operations, which included the closure of various businesses.
However, the medical marijuana industry was not among the “nonessential” industries identified by the government. So far, medical cannabis producers and their supply chains have been operational. Approvals remained steady even in the face of restricted operations and ailing economy brought by the pandemic. In March, the TGA approved 3926 applications down from 3568 in February.
These figures only represent the number of SAS Category B approvals. The TGA has been approving medical cannabis SAS applications since 1992. However, the approvals have increased exponentially since 2016.
Apart from Canada, with 369,000 active registrations according to September 2019 data, Australia’s medical cannabis market is one of the largest under federal regulations.
SAS online system
Introduced in July 2018, the online system facilitates the lodgment of SAS applications and notifications via a digital system. The TGA collaborates with the State and Territory Health Departments to harmonize the application processes regarding “the prescription of and access to unapproved medicinal cannabis products in Australia.”
As different jurisdictions of Australia implement various phases of cannabis legalization, the country is set to be Oceania region’s largest legal cannabis market. According to market projections by research company Prohibition Partners, Australia’s cannabis market is expected to hit US$1.5 billion by 2025.
The cannabis landscape in Australia is changing to a more favourable direction. This year alone, health regulators predict that the number of medical cannabis prescriptions will rise to 70,000 or more. Currently, ACT remains the only jurisdiction in the country that has legalized marijuana in its entirety. Medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, and industrial hemp all remain legal in the territory.