By Steve Elliott, Hemp News (through hemp.org)
A Tasmanian company has been given the go-ahead to grow, import and export medical marijuana on Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia which is not part of Australia’s taxation or welfare system.
The island’s government has given permission to Tasman Health Cannabinoids (THC) to grow medicinal cannabis, with a view to it becoming a multi-billion dollar exporting industry, reports Airlie Ward at ABC News.
While Norfolk Island has historically struggled financially, and, like Tasmania, has been dependent upon assistance from Australia, the island’s health minister Robin Adams explained that they are ready to turn that around.
‘We are open for investment, we are open for business on Norfolk Island,’ Ms Adams said.
‘We see this as a great opportunity both for the economy of Norfolk Island whilst providing a much needed medical product for export.’
Heavily dependent on tourism to boost its economy, Norfolk Island was hit hard by the global financial crisis. Visitors on the island dropped from 40,000 a year to 20,000.
But there’s one thing going for the island when it comes to establishing a foothold in the medical cannabis business, since Norfolk Island isn’t a part of Australia’s taxation system, they pay no income taxes, which gives them a huge advantage regarding expenses and pricing of the product.
THC had been lobbying the government of Tasmania to allow cultivation there in a trial with the University of Tasmania, but the government refused.
Ms Adams said Norfolk Island, more than 1,300 miles away from Tasmania, was happy to jump at the chance that created.
‘We have our own dangerous drugs legislation and that legislation was amended with the consent of the Commonwealth of Australia back in 1997,’ she said.
THC chairman Dr Mal Washer, a former WA Liberal MP, said the company would press on with its plans on Norfolk Island rather than in its home state of Tasmania for two reasons.
‘One, obviously shareholders want a profit from this,’ Dr Washer said.
‘The main reason though is to really try and get the best quality product we can, medical cannabinoid product for export to the countries where it’s legal.’
Medicinal marijuana is legal in a number of European countries, in Canada, and in more than 20 states in the US.
It will be a profitable industry, according to THC CEO Troy Langman.
‘In November we’re hoping to kick things off and three to four months later we should have our first harvest, and indoors we’re looking at around three harvests per year,’ Mr Langman said.
Mr Langman has been on Norfolk Island this month arranging the licensing and regulatory compliance.
‘We’re still hoping to fulfill our initial order that we were lucky to obtain from Canada, that was 1,000 kilograms,’ he said.
There will be strict growing and security requirements, according to Dr Washer.
‘I guess we’d be looking at a 10-acre site and a glasshouse would cover the bulk of that,’ he said.
THC is now in the process of getting enough cannabis seeds to get the project off the ground, or rather into it.
‘We’ll be obtaining our strains through legal channels from both universities in Australia where there’s seed banks and also of course the option to obtain seeds from places like Canada and also from Europe,’ Mr Langman said.
Ms Adams said exactly how much tax THC would be paying to Norfolk Island is still under discussion, but there will likely be hefty returns to the island’s coffers.
‘I’m of the view that this new industry will align perfectly with the vision that I share with many in this community, that Norfolk Island has the potential to be a centre for health and well being in the Pacific,’ Ms Adams said.
THC hopes to start planting cannabis on Norfolk Island in November.
And there may already be some competition raising its head. It’s thought that a company called Cannabinoid Pharmaceuticals NZ will also be applying for a licence, reports Jade Cooper at NewstalkZB.