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June 24, 2024

Legalise Cannabis MLC visits local medicinal cannabis facility

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Jeremy Buckingham MLC checks out the cannabis crop at Cymra Life Sciences. Photo Crystal Buckingham.

Jeremy Buckingham MLC was in the Northern Rivers recently, touring Cymra Life Sciences’ medical cannabis production facility near Alstonville.

He told The Echo that Cymra is growing their plants in a series of large greenhouses, under tightly controlled conditions. ‘It was really, really inspirational to see a medical cannabis facility growing these amazing products organically,’ he said.

‘There’s a lot of intellectual property being created there, as well as producing high quality medicine. I think it’s a sign of things to come.’

Mr Buckingham said Cymra’s facility near Alstonville is the biggest he’s seen, and not just in NSW. ‘Yes, they’re the largest greenhouse growers of medical cannabis in Australia. They’ve got a 4,000 square metre greenhouse, producing two tonnes of dried cannabis per year, with many kilos of extracts.

‘They employ 35 people, from white collar through to agronomists; contracting local industries of course, and then a lot of people working in the production and processing of the medicinal cannabis.’

So what message did you take away from your trip to Cymra, as a legislator? ‘Well, they would like to see the Australian product protected from cheap imports,’ said Mr Buckingham. ‘The Australian medicinal cannabis market is being flooded with poor quality products from the Americas, principally from Canada.

‘Basically, that’s second rate product, they are not subject to the production standards that Cymra are, and Australian consumers don’t know that. So I’ll be raising that in the parliament. I would like to see the government look at what’s happening, because protection is one way to grow the industry.’

NSW MLC Jeremy Buckingham visits the lab at Cymra Life Sciences. Photo Crystal Buckingham.

Learning from Victoria

‘The other fact that I was alerted to, which I’m going to raise in parliament, is that Victoria has developed a comprehensive medicinal cannabis industry policy,’ said Jeremy Buckingham.

‘Since 2018, this has set out a regulatory investment and assistance package for the industry in Victoria, which means the industry is going from strength to strength there.

‘The same does not exist in NSW. There is no industry policy for medicinal cannabis here, and no specific government assistance for that sector. So they are looking for an industry policy government assistance. Another part of that is reducing the regulatory burden,’ said Mr Buckingham.

Is the Minns Labor government at all receptive to what you’ve been saying, or are they still being quite hardline about these issues?

‘No, they are much more receptive, I think, than the previous government. I’ve already raised the issue of the hemp industry.

‘Cymra have a medicinal cannabis license, but also a hemp license,’ continued Mr Buckingham. ‘They are producing CBDs as distinct from THC containing cannabis. So I’ve already raised the issue of the cannabis industry with the Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty [also Minister for Regional NSW], and I have requested a meeting to convene an industry task force to look at ways to facilitate the industry.

‘She said she’s open to that, and I’m hoping for that to happen in the short term. The other thing that I’ve done is moved a bill to deregulate the hemp industry, that’s the hemp deregulation bill.’

Cymra Life Sciences cannabis production. Photo Crystal Buckingham.

Legalise it

Mr Buckingham said he’s also moving a bill for the legal regulation of recreational cannabis this week.

‘Of course, if that happens, that would be an enormous boon for the medicinal cannabis sector as well, because they could then transition into that industry. So I’m raising that issue with the minister too.

‘We certainly have the ear of the government, whether or not they respond in a way that’s meaningful, we will see.’

And what’s it like for you personally, being back in parliament? ‘It’s fantastic,’ said Mr Buckingham. ‘It’s great to reconnect with community. I’m working hard on a number of environment issues, on water and on coal seam gas.’

He said he’s developing a bill to ban coal seam gas on the Liverpool Plains, which is a fight he and the region have been engaged with for many years. ‘Yes, it’s really great to get my teeth into some issues and to use the skills that I’ve developed in my previous eight years.

‘I’m focused on getting some good outcomes,’ he said.

Jeremy Buckingham MLC meets the employees at Cymra Life Sciences. Photo Crystal Buckingham.

Growing business

In terms of cannabis, Jeremy Buckingham says few people realise what a big local employer Cymra Life Sciences is, both for Ballina Shire and the wider Northern Rivers region, with further strong growth expected after three years of operation.

‘Yes, they are in the process of capital raising to grow. They’ve got a great team. They’re very clever,’ he said.

‘Their facilities are absolutely state of the art, super high tech, they have plant breeding laboratories there; they are actually developing their own strains and the intellectual property that goes along with that of cannabis from local cultivars and local phenotypes, as they call them. And they are marketing them and selling them across Australia, and soon to the rest of the world.

‘They’re the model of what’s good – organic, soil-grown, environmentally responsible cannabis production, and grown to the highest standards, in a high security facility. The cannabis they’re producing there is some of the best in the world, and only getting better.’

Jeremy Buckingham MLC at Cymra. Photo Crystal Buckingham.

What about the big picture, how big could the legalised cannabis industry be in NSW, potentially?

‘It could be bigger, in terms of gross domestic product, and a bigger industry, then poultry and dairy combined. It would be bigger than all other horticulture,’ said Mr Buckingham.

‘If the black market was converted into the legal market, then overnight, you would have one of the biggest agricultural industries in the state on the books. The growth profile for it is enormous.

‘But this is a really important point – we are pushing for people to be able to grow their own medicine. That’s what the legalisation bill does; you should be able to grow and share six plants. Every household should be able to do that,’ said Mr Buckingham.

‘But there’s still going to be a demand beyond that, for cannabis supply, and how Cymra are going about that is a good example.’

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  1. Can’t wait for prescription cannabis medication to go down in price.
    Presently it is prohibitively expensive for many older people who really need it.
    This would allow them to get off opioids and other harmful drugs.
    But as usual, the medical drug industry is fixedated on their present super-high profit margins.
    So I doubt it ever will.


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