BuzzFeed News has been told the first batch of cannabis extract
grown in the Victorian government’s top secret hydroponics
facility is now ready for testing and processing.
The first cannabis research licence has been granted to
Victorian company Cann Group to start the manufacturing process
for the cannabis extract to be pharmaceutically turned into a
safe treatment for children with severe epilepsy.
“We promised Victorians they would be able to access this
life-changing treatment and every day brings us one step closer
to delivering on this Australian first commitment,” Victorian
minister for health Jill Hennessy told BuzzFeed News.
“We have seen time and time again the difference medicinal
cannabis can make to the lives of very sick children.”
Around 450 children with severe epilepsy will have first access
to the medical cannabis products after testing is complete in
the next few months.
Palliative care patients and adults suffering from cancer,
multiple sclerosis, and HIV will gradually get access as the
drug is rolled out.
The state’s commercial medicinal cannabis scheme will be set up
within the next few months, allowing companies to apply for
cultivation and manufacturing licences.
Medicinal cannabis users think the Victorian government’s
cultivation trial has the potential to benefit people going
through intensive treatment, as long as it is easy for patients
Paul, 43, who asked for his surname not to be used, was
diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010 and had a bone marrow
transplant in 2011. He lost more than 30kg in six months during
chemo and radiotherapy.
He used medicinal cannabis to help him start eating again.
“I’d gone from 100kg to 65kg and was really just battling to
enjoy food, and when you can’t enjoy food you can’t enjoy life,
so it really turned things around for me,” Paul said.
“It could have helped me a huge amount more, in the three years
up to when I started using it, if I had been able to get access
to it earlier. The success of cannabis in that medical
situation is all dependant on accessibility.”
The location of plants remains confidential, but photographs
given to BuzzFeed News show scientists tending to the
hydroponics at a high-tech research facility.
The crop is monitored by security guards and CCTV.
Construction has also been completed on a world-class
purpose-built cultivation and manufacturing facility for the
supply of high-quality medicinal cannabis to patients in
The government says the medicinal cannabis will be manufactured
to the highest quality and standards.
The 2016 Victorian budget included $28.5 million to establish
an Office of Medicinal Cannabis that will advise doctors and
families while overseeing the manufacturing and dispensing of
“safe and high-quality” cannabis. An independent medical
advisory committee on medicinal cannabis will also be set
Victoria was the first state in Australia to legalise access to
medicinal cannabis in
April last year, and within months patients in exceptional
circumstances will have access to the locally produced
Medicinal cannabis is currently legal in more than half of US
states, as well as Spain, Israel, France, and Canada.
Queensland legalised medicinal cannabis last year. It’s still a
crime to possess cannabis in NSW for medicinal use but the
state government is running clinical trials.
Earlier this year, the federal government changed the national
laws to allow states to import cannabis seeds from overseas.