Well-known West Australian farmer and Cannaponics chairman Steve Birkbeck has unveiled plans to open a cannabis health retreat as he looks to build on his expanding tourism empire.
The retreat will be located on his 880-acre Raintree farm near Denmark. It already houses the Birkbeck family’s Cannabis Botanical Distillery which uses commercially-grown hemp to distil spirits, seltzers and ginger beer.
He is now drawing up proposals to extend his cannabis-themed tourism product by constructing a retreat where guests will be offered legally prescribed cannabis medicine.
While plans are at an early stage, Birkbeck told Cannabiz the property will feature around 50 chalet-style lodges, with construction of the first dozen expected to begin in the next few months.
It already has planning permission.
The retreat will operate a clinic format, where guests will initially undergo a consultation with a medical professional before being prescribed medicinal cannabis.
Birkbeck said it will strive to help people with a range of conditions including sleep disorders, pain and anxiety. Patients requiring palliative care will also be offered treatment.
“I want to be very mindful that I am a follower not a leader when it comes to the medical consumption of cannabis, but I have made a lot of natural pharmaceuticals in my life and I want to go into this responsibly,” Birkbeck said.
“The idea, which we’re still working through, will be to offer a proper professional service, and have pharmaceutical licenced goods that can be prescribed while on a retreat on our property.”
Birkbeck insisted it would be operating within the confines of federal legislation “and doing it responsibly”.
While not expecting any political pushback, he warned he will “fight tooth and nail for my right to help enhance people’s health and well-being on my land”.
Police will also be consulted to ease any concerns they may have, he said.
“I am slowly seeding the idea into my local community, but Denmark is the Nimbin of WA, and cannabis is close to our skin, as is regenerative farming, so there there has been support for it,” Birkbeck said.
The retreat will operate alongside Raintree’s other tourism and hospitality businesses which include The Dam, a bar and restaurant, and the Cannabis Botanical Distillery, both of which opened in 2021.
Raintree farm grows around four-to-eight hectares of industrial hemp which, in addition to supplying material for the distillery, will be used in the construction of the retreat.
“We will incorporate hemp blocks or hemp panels, and I am hungry to learn what is the latest and greatest in building,” Birkbeck said. “There are people a lot more advanced with me on the construction side, but we want to build in blocks of 12.
“We already have the planning approval and will begin in the next few months.”
Birkbeck made his name in the 1990s as the pioneer of Australia’s sandalwood oil export industry and was one of the first Australians to export cosmetics and high-end perfume ingredients to France.
He began his extraction enterprises around seven years ago, and is now keen to raise awareness of the benefits of cannabis, he said.