Australian Cannabis Trends 2019: Steady Growth for the Industry

The Investing News Network looks back at a year full of Australian cannabis trends and critical industry developments.

As the end of 2019 nears, the Investing News Network (INN) is looking back at a year full of critical developments for the emerging Australian cannabis industry.

Though it’s still early days for the cannabis sector in Australia, recent increases in uptake indicate that medical marijuana could quickly become a crucial part of the country’s economy.

The conversation surrounding recreational marijuana use has also been ignited since the Australian Capital Territory legalized recreational use and possession this past September.

A growing patient base, legislative advancements and the country’s ambition to become one of the world’s largest exporters of cannabis all played significant roles in Australia’s cannabis market this year.

Read on to learn what market conditions defined the marijuana space in Australia in 2019.

Australian cannabis trends 2019: Rise in patient numbers

Australia’s medical cannabis space has grown slowly since the drug was legalized in the country back in 2016, but a recent spike in patient numbers has been a marker of the growing acceptance of cannabis as a viable product in the country.

“Although we note the early stage of the sector in Australia and the associated volatility of a nascent industry, over the same period patient numbers domestically have continued to soar,” said Canaccord Genuity analysts Cameron Bell and Matthijs Smith in a recent note sent out to investors.

In November, the Therapeutics Goods Association (TGA) approved 3,404 applications for medical cannabis patients looking to access products under Special Access Scheme-B (SAS-B).

At the time the analyst pair published their note, over 90 percent of the more than 20,000 applications approved under SAS-B had occurred in the last 12 months. Bell and Smith added that the country was on track to have over 25,000 approvals by the end of 2019.

Australian cannabis research firm FreshLeaf Analytics has also pointed to an adoption uptick, saying in a Q3 report on Australia’s medicinal cannabis market that the country’s patient approval rate was up over 1,000 percent for 2019 at that time.

Research indicates that 30,000 to 50,000 new patients could enter the market in 2020.

Sanjay Nijhawan, medical director at Cannabis Access Clinics, said the rise in patient numbers can be chalked up to an increase in the range of conditions approved by the TGA that can be treated with medical cannabis, as well as medical practitioners becoming more comfortable prescribing the drug.

The quick growth of patient approvals could also have been driven by the state of New South Wales (NSW), which eased the requirements for prescribing medical marijuana in September, removing the need for state approval for medical cannabis applications in most cases.

Western Australia joined NSW in November when it announced that unless a patient is under 16 years old or has an established history of drug abuse, general practitioners in the state can prescribe medical cannabis without having to refer to a specialist.

Australian cannabis trends 2019: Move to legalization

Perhaps one of the most critical developments in the cannabis space this year was the legalization of recreational use of the drug in the Australian Capital Territory in September, a first for Australia.

The new legislation, which comes into effect in January, will allow people over 18 to possess up to 50 grams of dried flower and to cultivate two marijuana plants at home with a maximum of four plants per residence. However, the policy will face obstacles, since cannabis plant and seed sales remain illegal at the federal level, alongside smoking the drug publicly.

While recreational use remains high in the country — according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it is the most widely used illicit drug — the path towards legalization will be tricky.

In an interview with INN, Fleta Solomon, managing director at privately held Australian cannabis firm Little Green Pharma, said the general consensus is that full legalization could be about five years out.

But that hasn’t stopped some leading cannabis firms from establishing themselves in the country and pursuing positions in the meantime.

It’s only a matter of time until the country legalizes recreational use, said Bruce Linton, former CEO of Canadian giant Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC,TSX:WEED), in an interview with ABC News.

“Every country that’s federally legal (in the future), we think someday will start with medical,” said Linton. “We think it’s just a natural progression.”

The company indicated that its subsidiary Spectrum Cannabis plans to create a division in Australia with operations in Victoria.

This sentiment was echoed by venture capitalist Ross Smith in an interview with ABC News: “There’s no question in my mind that medical cannabis is the Trojan horse for recreational cannabis, and I don’t believe it’s a bad thing,” he commented.

Australian cannabis trends 2019: International export

Another aspect of the development of the Australian cannabis industry comes down to the country’s ambition to become one of the world’s largest exporters of marijuana.

In an interview with ABC Radio, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country aspires to become a powerhouse for medical cannabis supply, especially after legalizing medical cannabis exports in 2018.

Hunt said Australia’s goal is to eventually become the world’s largest medicinal cannabis supplier. The goal is to help the growth of the country’s international presence in cannabis, as well as to build a successful domestic market for Australia’s medical marijuana users.

“We want to be able to ensure we have safe, legal, high-quality supplies for Australian patients, and if we have an international market as well, that’s the best way of ensuring that we have viable product and viable businesses in Australia,” Hunt said.

Since then, some cannabis firms have begun to ship their product out of the country.

The first company to do so was Little Green Pharma, which sent locally grown medical cannabis products to German cannabis distribution and wholesaler Cansativa for product testing in September this year.

Little Green Pharma’s partnership with Cansativa marked the first step for Australia in bringing domestically produced cannabis to patients around the globe, according to its leading executive.

“Being Australia’s first local producer of medicinal cannabis to have its products reach European soil is a major milestone in the company’s short history,” Solomon said.

Australia cannabis trends 2019: Investor takeaway

By all indications, 2019 served as a shaping year for the market in Australia. Thanks to critical legislative moves and a growing acceptance of the drug as a viable medical treatment, cannabis in Australia is ripe for an increase of investment opportunities moving into 2020.

As the pace of the marijuana sector’s growth quickens, industry players are anticipating that companies that are generating revenue and positive cash flow will begin to pull ahead of their competition.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Danielle Edwards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.


Highlights: Peak Processing Solutions subsidiary of Althea Group Holdings has entered into agreements with BBCCC, Inc., The Boston Beer Company and WeedMD Rx Inc., a subsidiary of Entourage Health Corp. Under the product development agreement, Peak will provide research and development services including laboratory support and the testing of various product formulations and recipes, for the new line of BBC products …


  • Peak Processing Solutions (Peak), subsidiary of Althea Group Holdings (ASX: AGH) (Althea) has entered into agreements with BBCCC, Inc., The Boston Beer Company (NYSE: SAM) (‘BBC’), and WeedMD Rx Inc., a subsidiary of Entourage Health Corp. (‘Entourage’)
  • Under the product development agreement, Peak will provide research and development services including laboratory support and the testing of various product formulations and recipes, for the new line of BBC products
  • BBC will provide Peak with funding of up to USD$2m for capital improvements associated with the development project. In addition, Peak will receive a minimum of USD$285,000 for each year of the Term of the agreement (totalling USD$1.42m )
  • Under the 5 year supply and manufacturing agreement, Peak is the exclusive manufacturer of all cannabis beverages produced or sold in Canada under BBC branding, for the term of the agreement
  • Entourage will be responsible for distribution and sales of the cannabis-infused beverages in Canada

Peak Processing Solutions, a subsidiary of Althea Group Holdings Limited (ASX: AGH) (‘Peak’ or ‘the Company’) is a leading developer, manufacturer, and distributor of cannabis infused edible, topical, and concentrate products is pleased to announce that the Company has entered into agreements with WeedMD Rx Inc., a subsidiary of (TSXV: ENTG) (OTCQX: WDDMF) (‘Entourage’) and BBCCC, Inc., a subsidiary of the Boston Beer Company Inc. (NYSE: SAM) (‘BBC’).

read more Show less

Sydney, Australia – Medlab Clinical Ltd an Australian biotech using delivery platforms to enhance medicines is pleased to announce the execution of a Master Services Agreement with WEP Clinical Ltd for the exclusive development and delivery of Named Patient Programmes relating to the unlicensed supply of its proprietary NanaBis and NanoCBD to patients in the UK and Europe. This Master Services Agreement is the first …

Sydney, Australia (ABN Newswire) – Medlab Clinical Ltd (ASX.MDC), an Australian biotech using delivery platforms to enhance medicines is pleased to announce the execution of a Master Services Agreement (MSA) with WEP Clinical Ltd (WEP) for the exclusive development and delivery of Named Patient Programmes relating to the unlicensed supply of its proprietary NanaBis(TM) and NanoCBD(TM) to patients in the UK and Europe.

This Master Services Agreement is the first partnership for Medlab to supply their cannabinoid medications outside of its current Australian Special Access Scheme.

Dr Sean Hall, CEO of Medlab stated, “This is a major milestone for Medlab to begin supplying NanaBis(TM) and NanoCBD(TM) on prescription for the first time to patients outside Australia.”

read more Show less

Everything you need to start investing in Australia’s growing Cannabis market

[shortcode-js-dynamic-innform category_id="245985" dtd="101521031" reference="australia_investing" source="australia-cannabis-investing"]

Are you ready to start investing in Australia’s growing cannabis market?

Dive right in with our FREE Special Report, Australian Cannabis: Forecasts, Analysis and Expert Advice

read more Show less

Gold isn't all that glitters in the land down under — silver in Australia is a major industry, and the country is home to both large and small players.

When it comes to precious metals, Australia has long punched above its weight — the nation was born riding the wave of a gold rush.

Gold isn't all that glitters through — Australia is also a major global producer of silver. It's among the 10 top producers, and was ranked seventh in 2020, with 1,300 tonnes coming from the many operational mines in the country. By comparison, the world's top producer, Mexico, produced 6,300 tonnes that same year.

Other key players in the silver market are Peru, China and Russia, which produce more silver than Australia, and the US, Argentina and Bolivia, which produce less.

Australia is sitting on quite a lot of the precious metal, with the world's second largest reserves, behind only Peru.

According to Geoscience Australia, one of the country's first mines was a silver-lead mine near Adelaide. Since then, the entire continent has been combed over with a fine-toothed comb, with deposits identified in every state and territory and active mines in every jurisdiction but one (Victoria).

Overall, Australia is well explored when it comes to silver, and since the mid-1800s it's had a constant stream of silver production. Aside from that, the country boasts metals-processing facilities in South Australia that separate the precious metal from its commonly mined counterpart metals, lead and zinc.

Silver companies in Australia

Those looking at the Australian silver market have options. There are plenty of big players with interests in Australian silver, and many smaller players for investors to consider researching too.

Most silver comes from mines dedicated to other metals — Glencore's (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF) Mount Isa in Queensland produces mainly copper, zinc and lead, but silver is separated by the company's integrated processing streams. Glencore also operates the McArthur mine in the Northern Territory, which is primarily zinc, but between its copper and zinc assets, Glencore produced 7,404,000 ounces of silver in Australia in 2020 — over 200 tonnes.

Elsewhere, BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT) produces a lot of silver as well at the Olympic Dam operation in South Australia. Perhaps best known for the production of uranium and copper, it also yields significant silver resources to the tune of 984,000 ounces in 2020 (or almost 28 tonnes).

According to Geoscience Australia data from 2016, over 20 mines in Australia produced silver in that year, while there are dozens of other resources identified in each state.

A primary producer of silver is the Cannington mine in Queensland, where South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF), a company that was spun off from BHP in 2015, mines silver and lead. Cannington is a big one, producing 11,792,000 ounces in 2020, or 334 tonnes of silver.

Tasmania boasts the Rosebery mine, which has seen 85 years of continuous operations and is currently owned by MMG (ASX:MMG,HKEX:1208). Rosebery, like all the others here, is polymetallic, and besides silver also produces copper, zinc, lead and gold. MMG also has the Dugald River mine in Queensland which also produced silver.

Getting into smaller companies, there are those like New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ) which restarted the Century mine in the Northern Territory for zinc and silver.

The future of silver in Australia

So, you get the picture — there's a lot of silver to be mined in Australia by way of mining everything else.

It's worth noting that because silver operates both as a precious and an industrial metal, and is mined most often alongside base metals, it can be pulled in many directions. However, it traditionally follows (and lags behind) its precious metal sibling, gold, making it a valuable investment commodity to keep an eye on.

Looking forward, the future of the commodity in the land down under — especially given Australia's significant reserves and operator diversity — is as bright as you'd like it, and depends on what investors are most interested in, given the by-product nature of the metal.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Australia took a stand against Facebook and Google earlier this year, and the move could have long-term implications for tech investors.

It was a ban that sent Australians wild and had the whole world watching.

Back in February, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) stopped users in Australia from posting news in a week-long blackout, reacting to proposed legislation that would have forced the social media behemoth to pay publishers for content.

What prompted Facebook to "friend" Australia again, and what are the potential long-term implications of the squabble? Read on to learn what tech-focused investors in Australia should know about the situation.

Australia squares off against Facebook

On February 25 of this year, Australia's federal government passed the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. It was developed after extensive analysis by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and is aimed at ensuring that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for their content.

It stipulates that digital platforms such as Facebook and Google (both named in the documentation) must pay news outlets whose content they feature — for example, if content is shared on Facebook or shows up in Google search results. The idea is that this will help to sustain journalism in Australia.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Google didn't react well to the code, which was first introduced in 2020.

Google didn't make any moves after it passed, but Facebook quickly made it impossible for Australian users to share news content, and pages for both local and international news organisations went blank — a major concern given the COVID-19 and wildfire concerns that were circulating at the time.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was scathing about Facebook's decision — which he ironically shared in a Facebook post — declaring the tech giant's actions "as arrogant as they were disappointing." He added, "These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them."

Despite strong feelings from both Australia and Facebook, the dispute was resolved fairly quickly, with the country agreeing to make four amendments to the legislation and Facebook restoring Australian's access to news.

Implications for Big Tech and news organisations

Both Australia and Facebook have claimed victory in the dispute, with a Facebook representative saying the company will be able to decide if news appears on the platform — meaning it won't automatically have to negotiate with any news businesses. Changes were also made to the arbitration process.

Tech experts have pointed out that larger news companies may ultimately benefit from the changes, but smaller ones could be pushed to the side. Major publishers that have struck agreements with tech giants, such as News Corp, Nine Entertainment (ASX:NEC,OTC Pink:NNMTF), Seven West Media (ASX:SWM) and Guardian Australia, may be able to increase their market share while smaller independent players lose out.

A business that is in full support of the laws is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). During the conflict, President Brad Smith came out loudly in favour of Australia's law, and advised that his company is willing to step up with search engine Bing should Google and/or Facebook pull out of the Australian market.

"In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed forward with legislation two years in the making to redress the competitive imbalance between the tech sector and an independent press. The ideas are straightforward. Dominant tech properties like Facebook and Google will need to invest in transparency, including by explaining how they display news content," he said in a blog post.

"The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press. It should copy it instead."

Global reach and tech investor impact

Six months down the road from Australia's landmark legislation, it's tough to say what the long-term impact may be.

That said, market watchers do believe the country is part of a new precedent of forcing Big Tech into paying for journalism — something giants Facebook and Google are not used to.

Countries looking to pursue similar legislation include Canada, where Facebook agreed in May to pay 14 publishers to link to their articles on its COVID-19 and climate science pages, as well as other unspecified use cases. Canada is pursuing other avenues too. Meanwhile, in France, Google said it will pay publishers for news content after the country took up new EU copyright laws that make digital platforms liable for infringements.

For investors, the takeaway is perhaps that while companies like Facebook and Google may seem too big too fail, they too can fall subject to new regulations that can change how they do business. As nations around the world look to take back control from these mega companies, it's important to be aware of possible effects on their bottom lines.

Don't forget to follow @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Top News