Colombian cultivator Foliumed recently sent its first shipment to Australia. CEO Oliver Zugel explains what the development means for the local industry.

When Dutchmen Willem Janszoon became the first European to set foot in Australia in 1606, 10 of his sailors met a sticky end at the hands of the locals.

Having recently landed a medical cannabis shipment from our Colombian operation, we fortunately have been receiving a warmer welcome, although the subject of imports remains hotly debated in the Australian cannabis industry. Why is that? 

Join the Cannabiz revolution

Want to stay ahead of the cannabis curve with the latest local and international news, analysis and intelligence and access to Australia's legal cannabis industry?

This article is included with our Premium subscription.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary, remarkable progress has been made in the Australian medical cannabis industry in terms of regulation, patient access and awareness. 

However, to fully unlock their potential, cannabis medicines need not only be efficacious and available, but also affordable.  

At more than A$200 for a monthly dose and without insurance reimbursement, Australian patients pay more for their medicine than anyone in the world.

No wonder cannabis remains a niche treatment for the well-heeled who have no other alternative than to buy what’s on the market. 

Foliumed founder and CEO Oliver Zugel: imports are no longer a necessary evil.

Imports, until now primarily from North America, have been a prevalent feature of the industry for some while and were considered by many a necessary evil until local cultivation and extraction infrastructure had been put in place.

With local capacity now established and the number of Australian producers on the rise, clearly the plan was for local production to gradually substitute more expensive imports and ensure a level playing field in terms of quality requirements for domestic and foreign producers alike. So what has changed ? 

Over the last couple of months, several shipments have landed in Australia from FoliuMed and others who cultivate and extract cannabis in Colombia at less than 1/10th of the cost of producers in North American or Australia.

Until recently, though, none of the producers in low-cost countries had EU-GMP certification or TGA 93 compliance, which impeded their ability to access markets with pharmaceutical quality requirements like Australia, Germany or Brazil. 

That has now been achieved, and a small number of exporters from Colombia have completed supplier quality audits with their customers. 

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...