Melbourne local government area (LGA) Maribyrnong City Council is investigating the cultivation and selling of medicinal cannabis to boost its finances, but the plan has come under attack from both ratepayers and Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA).

Councillors will vote this evening (Tuesday, September 14) on whether the LGA should begin moves to cultivate, produce and manufacture medicinal cannabis under a plan proposed by Mayor Michael Clarke to generate an alternative revenue stream.

Maribyrnong Mayor Michael Clarke

However, Ratepayers Victoria said local governments should concentrate on delivering for ratepayers and leave the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals to scientists. 

Meanwhile, the MCIA noted the length of time it takes to meet Office of Drug Control requirements in order to gain a licence and produce a suitable product.

Cr Clarke told the Herald Sun there could be an export market in helping those with epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, pain relief and those in palliative care. 

He added: “We have done an environmental scan here and it is really clear that in terms of opportunities, if we got into the medicinal cannabis industry, once it has blossomed it will give us a significant income stream.

“We believe it will allow us to put a cap on rates and, going forward, reduce rates. Its growth possibilities are enormous.”

However, Ratepayers Victoria association president Dean Hurlston called the plan “ridiculous” adding: “We are always looking for ways for council to innovative and lower the rates burden on residents, but this doesn’t pass the pub test.” 

“Councils have no role in medicinal cannabis or any allied health service. Leave this to scientists and experts.”

Cann Group
MCIA chair Peter Crock

MCIA chair Peter Crock said the steps needed to satisfy the regulations are extremely strict, while more than 200 licence applications have already been made to the Office of Drug Control. Crock noted it is easy to say, hard to do. 

“It’s not instant cashflow in terms of providing a product that meets the Australian requirements and Good Manufacturing Practice.

“It is effectively a pharmaceutical product you are producing, and the path to patient in terms of providing it to doctors and their role in education and supplying the information behind it is a requirement as well.

“So it is not an instantaneous market. While there is a lot of interest in it, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy pathway to get to patients.”