Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG) has been granted a licence in New South Wales to produce large quantities of medicinal cannabis oil for commercial use – a move which it says will ultimately mean more affordable access for Australian patients.

ANTG CEO and founder Matt Cantelo hailed it as a victory for the buy-local movement.

“Allowing more Australian cultivation of oil for the commercial market will be a major turn for the local industry, which traditionally has high barriers to entry,” he said.

ANTG’s growing and manufacturing facility, at an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Armidale, is already producing three strains of cannabis flower as well as oil extract for research and clinical trials.

ANTG’s growing and manufacturing facility near Armidale is already producing three strains of cannabis flower as well as oil extract for research and clinical trials.

Speaking after the company was granted GACP and GMP-accreditation, Cantelo said: “The difficulty in acquiring commercial licensing has led to a saturation of the Australian medicinal cannabis market from countries such as Canada, where companies are not required to meet the same level of restrictions placed on Australian businesses.”

Canada currently produces the majority of medical cannabis used to treat Australian patients. However, while products imported from overseas are required to conform with Therapeutic Goods Order 93 (TGO 93), the medical cannabis quality standard administered by the TGA, they are not always required to be manufactured in a GMP-licensed facility.

This differs to products made locally, which must – like all Australian-manufactured medicines – be made according to GMP quality standards. This inequality between local and imported products has been a source of tension in the sector for some time.

“We have been in a state of prohibition for more than 90 years, so we have to build a brand new industry.”

Cantelo said the lack of a level playing field was contributing to the high cost of medicinal cannabis in Australia.

“Many patients in Australia are unable to afford the ongoing costs of imported medicinal cannabis – which can be as much as A$50,000 a year for the treatment of ailments like epilepsy-induced seizures,” he said.

“We are seeing patients forced to the black market, or even trying to grow their own, which is not legal, or safe. With our Australian-made and Australian-grown [product] we will be producing the best quality medicine, while passing on the savings to consumers. Everyone wins.”

Cantelo said the company plans to have four new varieties of Australian medicinal grade cannabis oils available in the market within the next month.

“It’s about creating a domestic distribution process, the first step in the normalisation of medicinal cannabis. We have been in a state of prohibition for more than 90 years, so we have to build a brand new industry,” he added.

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