As Cannabiz turns two, co-founder and chief growth officer Martin Lane looks back at the predictions he made in last year’s birthday column – and finds a future career as a fortune teller may be some way off.

Cannabiz co-founder Martin Lane

It’s always hazardous making predictions about the Australian cannabis industry. In a sector so reliant on others – politicians, regulators, doctors, and investors to name a few – there are simply too many variables to make much more than an educated guess about its future direction.

That’s not to say the industry isn’t working really hard to drive its own success. With three trade bodies, two Legalise Cannabis MPs, an energised federal party, campaign groups like Drive Change and an army of patient advocates, there’s no shortage of people working day and night to ensure its growth.

But progress remains slow, and a look back at the predictions I made in last year’s ‘Cannabiz is one’ column suggests my future career as a fortune teller is less than assured (and I didn’t even see that one coming).

“Looking forward to the year ahead, 2022 feels like it might be the year when a company finally clears the TGA’s regulatory hurdles to get a CBD product approved for sale over the counter.”

Okay, so it’s only July, but let’s call this one a miss. While there’s plenty of work going on in the background, and regular updates from companies with positive results to share from clinical trials, the chances of anyone getting a Schedule 3 medicine registered before Christmas are close to zero.

Press coverage drove a surge in demand for over-the-counter CBD in early 2021

In fact – and at the risk of replacing one bad prediction with another – one industry leader with close working knowledge of the registration process told me recently they didn’t expect anyone to have a CBD product available over the counter before 2025.

It was back in December 2020 that the Therapeutic Goods Administration down scheduled low-dose CBD, triggering a race to get a medicine onto the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and a stampede of patients into pharmacies asking for CBD without a script.

That’s more a marathon than a sprint.

“And with an election in the offing, there’s an opportunity for politicians sympathetic to the industry’s cause to get their voices heard by the wider electorate.”

I’m giving myself 5/10 for this one. Legalise Cannabis Australia recorded a stunning result in the federal election, with Bernie Bradley picking up 5.37% of the primary vote in Queensland and almost ousting One Nation’s Pauline Hanson for the sixth Senate seat.

And a similar result in New South Wales saw party president Michael Balderstone record 265,000 votes after preferences, only being knocked out of the Senate race with the Liberal/National and One Nation candidates still standing.

Meanwhile, in WA, Legalise Cannabis MPs Dr Brian Walker and Sophia Moermond made waves, unveiling details of a forthcoming bill to legalise recreational use in a bid to start a public debate on the issue.

SA Greens MP Tammy Franks

The Greens also committed to recreational legalisation nationally, while Green MPs Cate Faehrmann and Tammy Franks and Reason Party leader Fiona Patten did their bit at the state level.

But the two main parties stubbornly refused to join the debate, failing to respond to our questions regarding their policies on medicinal or recreational cannabis ahead of the election and making no mention of either in their manifestos. 

And with Labor Premiers Mark McGowan and Daniel Andrews shutting down debate on reform in WA and Victoria, it still feels like change will have to come from a grassroots movement rather than a politician in power going out on a limb.

“And we hope to see a return to live events, which will give us the opportunity to meet more of you face-to-face.” 

Well it would’ve been worse if it hadn’t been for the tenacity of United In Compassion founder Lucy Haslam. As Covid lockdowns continued to wreak havoc on live events, and the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Symposium was postponed for a second time, I began to wonder whether 2022 would be another write off.

But as state borders finally opened, in May the industry gathered on the Sunshine Coast for its first face-to-face event since the pandemic started. And it was without doubt the highlight of my time in the industry so far.

The Australian Medicinal Cannabis Symposium finally returned in May 2022

Having launched Cannabiz at the height of the first lockdown, most of my contact building had been done via Zoom, so it was an absolute joy to meet people without a zany background behind them and to start conversations with something other than ‘you’re on mute’.

I could’ve done without being told ‘you’re shorter than I imagined’ by at least three people, but you can’t have everything.

The event confirmed a lot of what I already knew about our industry. That it’s full of committed, passionate people who are determined to improve the lives of patients by delivering better access to the treatment they need.

But from a personal point of view, it was great to hear that Cannabiz matters. 

When you launch something into a Covid-induced vacuum, it’s hard to get proper feedback. So it was a relief to be told we are doing our bit to help the industry grow and that you support and appreciate our efforts.

On the readership front, it’s been a very satisfying year. 

Membership of our free, Cannabiz Essentials, service has doubled to almost 3,000. 

And while our audience has grown, so has engagement, with our weekly newsletter opened by more than 40% of recipients every week. To put that in perspective, the average for our publishing sector is 23%.

Commercially, we’ve persuaded enough of you to sign up for our paid Premium tier to be able to pay our journalists something towards the work they do.

That enables us to continue breaking exclusive news stories critical to your business – such as last year’s shake-up of the Special Access and Authorised Prescriber schemes.

And while we remain advertising free, we’re very grateful for the support of a small group of companies keen to tell their stories via our Cannabiz Council sponsored content offering.

Looking ahead, we will be creating more opportunities for the industry to network and do business face to face, developing exclusive reports to help guide your business strategy, and finalising applications for our Green List community of pioneering cannabis firms.

If you’d like to hear more about Cannabiz Council or the Green List, please do drop us an email.

Despite the ups and downs, it’s been another massive year for the sector, with revenue set to double and SAS-B approvals already up by 18% compared to H1 2021.

And next year promises to be even bigger. 

That’s a prediction we’re willing to bet on.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...