Sydney is one approval away from getting its first cannabis dispensary as medicinal cannabis use booms – but there’s a race to be the first on the market.
Medicinal cannabis is legal Australia-wide for anyone with a prescription, which can be obtained easily from a GP to treat anything from anxiety and sleep disorders to general “pain”. Cannabis scripts can legally be filled in pharmacies.
But while demand has unsurprisingly spiked since cannabis was legalised for therapeutic purposes in 2016, the majority of Australians who have prescriptions order their products online.
The number of cannabis prescriptions handed out has grown from fewer than 3000 in 2018 to more than 120,000 in 2021 and all industry estimates say it has continued to boom in 2022 and 2023.
“Between the first half and second half of 2022, the volume of medicinal cannabis products that were being accessed by patients grew by over 40 per cent,” Rhys Cohen, an advisor from the Penington Institute, told the SMH.
Several states already haves several cannabis dispensaries in operation because these numbers make the business opportunity alluring.
But because dispensaries need to be approved and registered as pharmacies, the barriers to opening are slowing the race.
One in Melbourne’s Brunswick, called Better Leaf, has announced it would open Sydney’s first dispensary on King Street in Newtown. It will stock more than 200 cannabis products and accessories, including vape cartridges, which, like nicotine vape cartridges, are only legal with a prescription.
They aim to have the doors open in no more than two months’ time, but it’s not the only business in contention for the gold.
Sydney criminal lawyer Eidan Havas, who already owns an online dispensary, has been planning to open a combined clinic and pharmacy in Bondi for months. He wants patients to be able to get their cannabis prescription and fill it in one go.
It’s all set up and ready to go — but the shelves are empty as Havas waits for final approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Next, he plans to open as many of these stores as possible, which he said would help society accept this form of treatment.
No state or territory governments have plans to legalise cannabis for personal use – like the ACT has done – so dispensaries will be slow to open for the foreseeable future.
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