Cannabiz chief correspondent Steve Jones talks to Oz Medicann Group chief executive Rohit Bhuta about his journey from corporate finance to medicinal cannabis.

Rohit Bhuta became something of an executive globetrotter during his 30 years in finance.

From India to Malaysia, Singapore to South Africa, he traversed the world in a number of senior roles – four as chief executive – predominantly with Macquarie Bank.

But as he helped clients manage their finances and grow their wealth – with some aplomb – Bhuta became aware of a disquieting reality; the desperate inequality between the haves and have nots.

Rohit Bhuta

It may have been a circuitous route, but such socioeconomic recognition paved the way for his career transition from wealth to health, and his appointment as Oz Medicann Group (OMG) chief executive.

“My journey across eight countries has afforded me the privilege of immersing myself in diverse cultures, environments and lifestyles. These experiences have been profoundly enlightening,” Bhuta reflects. “The disparity in wealth in countries like South Africa and India is especially jarring.

“While many of us live in a bubble of comfort, in these regions, inequality is a reality that surrounds you, compelling a deep desire to effect change. The real challenge lies in discerning how to make a meaningful impact and where to initiate that effort.”

These experiences have shaped Bhuta’s world view, culminating in the realisation that his true vocation is in the health sector.

“It seems as if every step of my career has been a preparation for this moment, enabling me to contribute to a company like Oz Medicann where I can genuinely impact lives,” he says. “The transition marked an evolution in my professional journey, from the realm of finance to the pursuit of safeguarding and enhancing human health.”

Contagious passion

Born in Fiji, Bhuta’s first overseas excursion took him to New Zealand where, as a 17-year-old, he attended Wellington College and, later, the city’s Victoria University.

“Transitioning from the Fiji tropics to the cold windswept landscape of Wellington was a significant adjustment in the early years,” Bhuta recalls. “While challenging, it was during this period that my resilience began to form.”

After achieving a bachelor of commerce and administration, and showing particular aptitude for finance and accounting, he took a role as auditor at E&Y, and so began his three-decade career in financial consulting and wealth creation.

In was in 2022 that Bhuta was introduced, by a mutual friend, to OMG founder John Leith. The pair immediately hit it off, with Leith struck by Bhuta’s leadership credentials, cultural sensitivities and general business acumen.

Soon after, he was invited to join the firm’s advisory board. Six months later, in January 2023, he was appointed CEO.

“I quickly and deeply immersed myself in the business,” Bhuta says.

“It seems as if every step of my career has been a preparation for this moment, enabling me to contribute to a company like Oz Medicann where I can genuinely impact lives.”

Rohit bhuta

If Leith was taken by his global experience in leaderships positions, Bhuta recalls what drew him to the OMG vision.

“John’s passion and his dedication to what he and the company is doing is contagious,” he tells Cannabiz. “He talked so passionately about putting patients above profits, and how people should get access to medicine all the time, any time and everywhere. It resonated with me.”

International perspective

Not only did Bhuta bring decades of leadership qualities and business know how to the role, he also provided a critical international perspective.

To that end, he has taken ownership of the global commercialisation of OMG’s products.

With a number of clinical trials on the cards targeting sleep, anxiety and pain, OMG is looking beyond Australia’s shores in the hope of taking these products to international markets.

The firm has already struck a deal with Europe-based research and development firm DSM Firmenich to explore the therapeutic potential of orally dispersible CBD tablets, which OMG hopes will become an over-the-counter product a little further down the track.

Other deals are in the pipeline.

“We are essentially forming strategic partnerships in key markets where we aim to operate and distribute,” Bhuta explains.


Given his background in finance, it is perhaps unsurprising that Bhuta had little prior exposure to medicinal cannabis. Like many with limited knowledge of the subject, he was unaware of the cannabis plant’s therapeutic qualities. Such a mindset was rapidly turned on its head during those early conversations with Leith.

“It was only when I started learning a little more about the research and development and all the work Oz Medicann was doing that I realised I had initially viewed it entirely the wrong way,” he admits.

“It’s now me trying to destigmatise medicinal cannabis. Of course stigma still exists, but it is undeniable medicinal cannabis is gaining acceptance. We must continue to educate doctors and patients so there is a pull and push effect. The aim must be to transition from stigma to acceptance to inclusion so more people can access and benefit from its life-changing properties.”

If there is one thing that concerns him though, it is the seemingly inevitable march towards legalisation.

In views that are widely shared within the research fraternity, Bhuta is worried what impact an adult-use market may have on clinical trials and the furtherment of research. Without such critical work, the possible therapeutic benefits of cannabis – particularly minor cannabinoids that hold such potential – may never be realised.

“My personal opinion is that we shouldn’t go down that path, not yet anyway,” he says. “If we do, if we go in too quickly, we’ll lose so much momentum that we’ve built around research.

“We’ve seen it in the US and Canada. As soon as it was legalised, the amount of money invested in research decreased. We need to be in a situation where companies are still motivated to spend money on research to further grow the body of evidence for medicinal cannabis.”

Regardless of the debate swirling around legalisation, nothing is likely to distract Bhuta and the rest of the OMG team from its goal of developing efficacious medicine. Research, Bhuta says, is a hallmark of the company.

“It’s one of the things that attracted me from the outset. We are a biotech company and our focus has always been on product innovation, research and development.

“We will continue that focus, and our clinical trials for an over-the-counter CBD sleep tablet, and two other concurrent trials for chronic pain and women’s health, are great examples of that. We want to develop something that is going to truly make a difference to patients’ lives.”

For Bhuta, the transition from wealth to health has made a difference to his own life. He has answered his true calling.

“I am enjoying the opportunity to apply the personal skills I’ve honed over the years to a new industry,” he says. “The chance to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others is not only rewarding but deeply inspiring.

“The personal challenge has been to leverage my lifelong learning and leadership skills to effect real change in the world and drive progress in a new field. I’m loving every moment of it.”

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...

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