Nearly 25,000kg of medicinal cannabis was produced in Australia in 2022, with an almost identical amount arriving in the country from overseas, official data from the Office of Drug Control (ODC) has revealed.
Newly-released figures show the quantity of imported cannabis last year soared to 24,887kg, up 247% from 2021 when just 7,173kg was shipped to Australia.
The volume of home-produced cannabis in 2022 climbed 49% to 24,900kg, reflecting the increasing number of cultivation facilities in Australia.
But the growth of the export market was far more subdued. According to the ODC, Australian firms sent 1,510kg of cannabis overseas, only 6% more than in 2021, illustrating the need – and regulatory requirement – for locally-grown cannabis to meet the needs of Australian patients first.
Drug enforcement officials also disclosed the amount of cannabis stock held by Australian companies. In 2021 that totalled 17,700kg – more than the 16,700kg actually produced – falling to 15,400kg in 2022.
The ODC said the stock “at hand” included cannabis from a company’s own cultivation and production activities, stock purchased from other domestic sources or imported, and cannabis “retained for manufacturing activities”.
The release of the data follows the launch by the ODC of a cannabis data webpage and forms part of the department’s pledge to be more open with the industry.
ODC assistant secretary Avi Rebera told the United in Compassion Symposium in August that transparency was “something a lot of you have been asking about”.
The only other previous import and export data was obtained by Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia in October 2022 which related to permitted amounts rather than actual numbers.
Imports from Canada predictably led the way, rising 266% to 21,201kg in 2022, representing 85% of the 24,887kg total.
There was also colossal growth from Portugal, with imports climbing 1,346% to 839kg, while imports from Germany increased from 9kg to 858kg.
Shipments from Denmark jumped from 195kg to 868kg, a rise of 345%.
The volume of cannabis arriving from non-European markets varied, with imports from Colombia falling 70% to 51kg, and those from Israel down 66% to 141kg.
Conversely, there was a huge 900% jump in cannabis arriving from South Africa, rising from 60kg in 2021 to 600kg last year. Volumes imported from New Zealand grew 182% to 144kg.
Turning to the export market, data showed that 62% of the 1,510kg of cannabis leaving Australia in 2022 was sent to Germany, a total of 935kg.
But that was down more than 27% from 2021, when 1,290kg of exports headed to the European nation, representing 90% of the 1,426kg total.
The only other markets to receive cannabis from Australia in 2022, according to the ODC data, were New Zealand (167kg, up from 5kg in 2021) and the UK (407kg, up from 131kg).
In releasing the data, the ODC defined cannabis as the “flowering or fruiting tops (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops) from which the resin has not been extracted”.
The home-grown production relates to the amount of cannabis “separated from the plants from which they are obtained”.