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The Australian Government is investing AUD $3m (~€1.65m) from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) into medical cannabis research.

The research is intended to examine the benefits of medical cannabis for pain, symptom and side effect management for cancer patients.

Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, said: “Since her own battle, Ms Olivia Newton-John has been an advocate for breast cancer awareness and research, and through her personal experience and ongoing efforts has helped shine a light on the benefits associated with medicinal cannabis.”

Grant opportunities

An open and contestable grant opportunity will fund research, that will provide further evidence into an area of increasing interest in Australia and globally.

Mr Hunt said: “Our Government is committed to ensuring a safe, quality supply of medicinal cannabis to Australian patients, but only when it is prescribed by a medical professional.

“Overall more than 11,000 patients are estimated to have been approved to access medicinal cannabis products – with the majority approved this year.

“There have only been a limited number of well-designed clinical studies on medicinal cannabis, and we need to increase the evidence base to support medical professionals to make their decisions.”

Given the increase in prescribed medicinal cannabis, the Government has supported the nation’s medicinal cannabis industry, and cut red tape, to help meet demand.

Export opportunities

The medicinal cannabis industry has the potential to make a significant contribution to exports, employment and economic growth, particularly in rural and regional areas.

The first licence for an Australian company to grow and harvest medicinal cannabis was granted in March 2017, and the country is now up to 78 licences.

To support further growth in the industry, applicants with Major Project Status will be given priority to receive medicinal cannabis licences through the Office of Drug Control.

Medical research is one of the core elements of the Morrison Government’s $104bn Long Term National Health Plan.