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Challenges Facing Australia’s Cannabis Industry

Australia is moving forward with its medical cannabis industry. However, patients still face challenges that affect the entire market.

The growth of the international cannabis industry has led countries across the world to invest and contend for a piece of the market, and Australia is no exception.

The country has expressed its intention to become a world leader in marijuana since medical use of the drug was legalized in 2016. In 2018, the export of medical cannabis was legalized as well.

“We’d like to be potentially the world’s number one supplier,” said Minister for Health Greg Hunt on a local radio station in mid-2018. Considering the country’s robust agricultural sector — it’s valued at AU$58 billion — and its proximity to Asia, a burgeoning cannabis market in itself, Australia could become a powerhouse for the global marijuana industry.

There are some hurdles the country is facing, however, that could hinder the growth of its cannabis industry. Here’s a look at some of the challenges the Australian marijuana market is up against.

Patients currently facing cannabis access difficulties

Medical cannabis in Australia is under the purview of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), a regulatory authority that ensures the quality of products such as cannabis.

Save for one cannabis-based product, medical cannabis products aren’t registered as medicine in the country, so patients must use special pathways to access the drug, which can be a lengthy process.

One state, Victoria, developed aspirations to become the country’s “medical cannabis capital” after Cronos Australia, part of Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON,TSX:CRON), picked Victoria to establish its Asia-Pacific headquarters and medical cannabis research and development centre in January.

The state is also home to the medical cannabis operations of Cann Group (ASX:CAN,OTC Pink:CNGGF) as well as Spectrum Cannabis Australia, a subsidiary of Canadian cannabis heavyweight Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC,TSX:WEED).

“Victoria is well and truly the home of medicinal cannabis cultivation in Australia and we’re thrilled yet another global medicinal cannabis company will call Victoria home,” Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes said in a statement issued in February.

Victoria was Australia’s first state to legalize medical cannabis back in 2016, and last year it released a medical cannabis industry plan to establish itself as a medical marijuana giant in the country.

“Victoria’s industry will aim to supply half of Australia’s market for medicinal cannabis,” the plan reads. “This is an ambitious goal, but would mean that by 2028, Victoria could provide medicinal cannabis products to 83,000 of the 166,000 potential patients across Australia.”

Some experts have noted, though, that a lack of market access for local patients could get in the way of Victoria’s ambitions.

“The crux of the problem is, we can’t produce medical cannabis products for our market unless we enable the market (patients) to access those products,” Victoria Legislative Council member Fiona Patten told Marijuana Business Daily this past January.

“Without broader patient approval, we won’t get a production industry off the ground,” she added.

Taxation could also create issues. In Canada, a tax conflict unfolded in February when Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana called on the country’s federal government to remove the roughly 10 percent tax on medical cannabis before the 2019 federal budget was finalized.

At the time, medical marijuana users in Canada said they had seen their costs jump significantly, forcing them to look to the black market for product. The group said that the 10 percent tax would add hundreds of dollars a year to their medical costs.

There is also a degree of apprehension around prescribing the drug due to a lack of research, according to some members of parliament.

In 2017, the Australian health authority conducted a review of medical cannabis in order to get a better sense of how the drug could be used to help patients; it found that evidence that marijuana is effective in relieving pain for chronic neuropathic pain conditions is “limited.”

As such, the TGA suggested that medical cannabis should only be considered when registered medicine has proven to be ineffective in managing patient symptoms.

Drug still subject to strict governmental legislation

More broadly, Australia’s cannabis industry is still tightly regulated across the country, and regulations vary between states and territories.

Some regions, like the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and New South Wales (NSW), have moved forward to take steps and loosen restrictions on medical cannabis access.

In the ACT, a law that would allow the recreational use and possession of cannabis is currently being debated; in NSW, Hunt said that the state government has “taken a machete” to red tape to allow more prompt access to medical cannabis.

But the measure for legalizing cannabis may have a difficult time being enacted, specifically in the ACT.

One concern is the interaction between the proposed laws and existing Commonwealth laws that supersede territory legislation.

Currently, cannabis is categorized as a Schedule 4 drug by the Australian government, which means it can only be legally used as a prescription medication or as a prescription animal remedy.

The law being considered would allow people to carry, use and grow small amounts of cannabis, but would still ban selling the drug. Other worries for the policy include definition of ownership as well as deciding where plants can be stored and how to keep cannabis away from those under the age of 18.

Loosening cannabis laws could benefit medical cannabis patients in the country. As it is, almost all of the cannabis in Australia is imported, making it an expensive commodity.

Currently, there’s only one approved medical cannabis product in Australia: Sativex, generically known as Nabiximols, which is used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis.

Investor takeaway

Despite these and other challenges, Australia’s cannabis market is projected to grow quickly.

A 2018 report from cannabis research firm Prohibition Partners states that by 2028 the country’s medical cannabis market could be valued at AU$3.1 billion, while its adult-use sector could reach AU$8.2 billion.

Australia is also well positioned geographically to access the nascent marijuana market in Asian countries such as South Korea and Thailand, which have both made medical cannabis legal recently.

The Australian cannabis market will continue to be an interesting investing space as grows to maturity.

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.

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5 Top ASX Robotics Stocks

Emerging Technology Investing
robotic arm above a globe showing Australia

Australia is hoping to lead the way in robotics, and these are some of the country's top robotics stocks by market cap.

Robotics is a growing area of engineering and science technology. Although Australia is hoping to lead the way in robotics, the number of pure-play ASX-listed robotics companies isn't all that big.

Robotics is a broad term covering everything from design to the construction and operation of robots. It also includes the use of robots in roles normally played by humans, often to reduce errors or speed up processes.

This list includes a wide range of ASX-listed companies that employ robotics. Data was sourced using TradingView's stock screener on November 24, 2021, and stocks are listed in order of market cap from largest to smallest.


1. WiseTech Global (ASX:WTC)

Market cap: AU$17.19 billion; current share price: AU$52.90

Technology powerhouse WiseTech Global provides software solutions to logistics businesses in 130 countries around the world. Its CargoWise platforms are designed using workflows, automation and robotics. The WiseTech Global Group includes more than 30 businesses.

The company has performed positively on the ASX over the past year, with its share price rising about 70 percent since the start of 2021. The company expects to continue this momentum in during its 2022 fiscal year, with projected EBITDA growth of 26 to 38 percent.

2. Altium (ASX:ALU)

Market cap: AU$5.47 billion; current share price: AU$41.67

Altium is a leading global software company that focuses on 3D-printed circuit board (PCB) design. Although seemingly obscure, the PCB design tool Altium Designer is used by robotics companies like Robotics Kanti. The company also sponsors student robotics design competitions that focus on PCB design.

The 2021 fiscal year was strong for Altium, which reported a revenue increase of 6 percent, to AU$180.2 million, and announced a final dividend of AU$0.21 per share.

3. Vection Technologies (ASX:VR1)

Market cap: AU$249.49 million; current share price: AU$0.25

Vection Technologies is a multinational software company with offices in Western Australia, as well as Subiaco and Casalecchio di Reno in Italy. The company uses robotics technology in addition to 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality, industrial internet of things and CAD solutions.

The business is split into two sections: information technology development and outsourced services. The company also collaborates with Autodesk Technology Centres, the Microsoft Mixed Reality Team and Cisco Systems Italy.

4. FBR (ASX:FBR)

Market cap: AU$116.95 million; current share price: AU$0.05

FBR designs, develops and builds robots for the global construction market. The company's dynamically stabilised offerings are made to work outdoors using FBR's Dynamic Stabilisation Technology.

This technology was first used in the Hadrian X, a brick-laying robot that can build structural walls more efficiently than traditional methods and with less waste. The first commercial building to have its structural walls built by Hadrian X in 2020 was completed and tenanted in 2021.

5. Bill Identity (ASX:BID)

Market cap: AU$44.18 million; current share price: AU$0.25

Previously known as BidEnergy, Bill Identity provides a series of bill management solutions leveraged using its Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The RPA system helps clients increase their efficiency and serves customers across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Europe. The company had a strong year, with total operating revenue growth of 55 percent year-on-year to AU$14.6 million in its 2021 fiscal year.

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

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

Sydney Opera House at night

Robotics is an area of investing that is growing in Australia ― but is it a sector worth investing in?

The global robotics industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.8 percent through 2028 according to the Global Industrial Robotics Market Analysis 2020. Robotics is an area of investing that is growing in Australia ― but is it a sector worth investing in?

Broadly speaking, robotics is the design and construction of robots. This can include core automation and production, industrial software, robot technology and integration of robotics. From drones to self-driving cars to toys ― robotics is a growing industry that is beginning to permeate our daily lives.


The distinction between robotics and AI can be a little confusing, but essentially think of robotics like the body and AI like the brain. Both can exist separately, and they are powerful when combined. The goal of a robot is to complete a task faster and more efficiently than a human.

What does the market look like?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen technology sectors such as robotics accelerate as businesses have faced global challenges. Robotics has been able to help keep spaces safer by replacing humans with robots on factory lines, in eCommerce warehouses or on healthcare frontlines taking temperatures or disinfecting spaces.

What is Australia doing to support the robotics sector?

In early 2020, the Robotics Australia Network was formed to accelerate growth of the domestic robotics industry. The network aims to strengthen global competitiveness and cement Australia as a global leader in robotics.

How does the Australian robotics sector stack up?

According to the International Federation of Robotics, in a ranking of the world's most automated countries it's not even in the top 10. Number one is Singapore, followed by South Korea then Japan.

The investment space for pure robotics companies is relatively small, with greater opportunities to invest in more broader technology, AI and automation stocks.

Who are the big players in robotics stocks?

Robotics stocks in Australia are companies with a strong crossover to other technology sectors like artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Vection Technologies (ASX:VR1)
Market Cap AU$77.56 million

Vection is a multinational software company with offices in Western Australia as well as Subiaco and Casalecchio di Reno in Italy. The company uses robotics technology as well as 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality, industrial IoT and CAD solutions. The business is split into two sections: IT development and outsourced services. The company also collaborates with Autodesk Technology Centers, the Microsoft Mixed Reality Team and Cisco Systems Italy.

Bill Identity (ASX:BID)

Market Cap AU$52.97 million

Previously known as BidEnergy, Bill Identity is a series of bill management solutions leveraged using robotic process automation, which helps clients increase efficiency. The company serves customers across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Europe. Bill Identity had a strong year, with total operating revenue growth of 55 percent year-on-year to US$14.6M in FY21.

What are the other ways to invest in robotics?

Another way to get into the robotics sector is investing in robotics exchange traded funds (ETFs), a popular choice that offers exposure to the industry of robotics and artificial intelligence rather than a single company. Two major ETFs in the robotics sector are:

  • BetaShares Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF (ASX:RBTZ)
  • The ROBO Global Robotics and Automation ETF (ARCA:ROBO)

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

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