• rhys cohen

Were my 2020 Australian cannabis industry predictions correct?

Back in January I wrote an article titled "FreshLeaf’s top ten 2020 trends for Australia’s medical cannabis industry"

So in the spirit of constructive criticism, how did I do? Other than signing off with "here’s to a great year ahead!", of course.

1. Senate inquiry frames issues but doesn’t directly solve them

Unfortunately I think I was right on this one. Neither major party has formed a formal position on the recommendations from the inquiry.

Technically speaking some of the recommendations have been actioned, but the TGA would likely have put out more educational material regardless, and they had already announced their intentions to pursue CBD down-scheduling in their submission to the inquiry.

So I don't think it's solved any issues yet. Although to be fair, the inquiry may yet prove to be crucial. We will have to wait and see.

2. Products pricing plummets

This was an easy one, so no points for guessing right. Minimum wholesale price-per-mg went from $0.1 in Q3 2019 to $0.046 in Q3 2020.

3. More Aussie products come online

Another no-brainer which was technically correct, but I did expect more locally-cultivated products to emerge, so maybe half marks.

4. Patient numbers hit the big-time

The prediction was 30-50,000 active patients by the end of 2020, and we hit 30,000 a couple of months ago, so that’s good. But I was relying on the FreshLeaf patient model, which I can’t take full credit for. So good on Tim and Cass for getting this one right.

5. New approval pathways become viable

We started 2020 with 54 active Authorised Prescribers, and as of October we have 146. And I am aware of dozens of AP applications waiting for assessment and approval from ethics committees. But we will have to wait until January (the 6-monthly reporting period for APs) and a new FOI request before we know how many patients have gone through the AP route in 2020.

I'd like to say I was spot-on about the rise of compounding, but since access to Schedule 4 compounded products doesn't require any State or Commonwealth approval, there is literally no way for us to know just how many patients have accessed these products.

6. One license to rule them all

The specifics of the single license model are still being finalised, but it is possible that related legislation might be tabled in parliament before the end of 2020. This was one of the main recommendations from the McMillan review, so it was probably going to happen eventually. Still, nice to see some progress.

7. Global glut

Just read Matt Lamers here and here. Enough said.

8. TGA starts enforcing GMP requirements

This was a big one. At the start of the year, I was under the incorrect impression that GMP quality standards for imported unapproved cannabis medicines were required, just not enforced. As it turns out, they were never required to begin with. But now it finally looks like the inequality between local and overseas products will be addressed. So I’m chalking this one up as a win.

9. Patchy ASX post-bubble recovery

I guess it depends on your definition of ‘patchy’. But considering the year we’ve had, I'm surprised that all of the ASX-listed companies have so far survived, and some of them are near record highs. In fact, the rash of takeovers and firesales I forebode didn't really materialise. So no points for this one.

10. NZ expansion sets example and opens new market

Unfortunately, I have to say this was a miss. The NZ scheme has had its fair share of teething problems to do with product availability and patient access. Turns out making it easier for doctors to prescribe is necessary, but not sufficient, for robust patient numbers. I also think a lot of effort that would have been put into the medical system was probably focused instead on the referendum. So hopefully 2021 will be a better year for Kiwi patients.

Wrapping up Excluding the obvious and easy ones, I think most of my 2020 predictions were reasonably accurate. And it feels cathartic to write something that psychologically closes the book on this absolute lemon of a year. What do you think is going to happen in the Australian medicinal cannabis industry in 2021? Post a comment or shoot me a message and let me know your thoughts so I can steal them for my "top 10 20201 trends" article!

Rhys is not a lawyer and nothing that he says or writes is intended as legal advice

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