SYDNEY - Australia is to become the fourth country in the world to allow exports of cannabis-based therapies. The federal government hopes the reforms will help Australia become a world leader in the medicinal cannabis market.
Laws to allow exports of Australian cannabis-based therapies will come into force in February, according to the federal health minister.
It will allow Australian produced oils, lozenges, sprays and pills to be sold overseas for the first time. Advocates have argued the plant-based treatments can relieve severe pain associated with many medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, and to reduce the impact of cancer therapies.
Potential export markets include South America, Spain, Canada and Germany.
Australian federal health minister Greg Hunt said allowing exports will help the developing domestic market to expand.
"We have a world class reputation for our clean and green farm products. Put them all together and we are brilliantly placed to be a world leader in medical development and medical cannabis," he said.
Officials say medicinal cannabis exports have the potential to create a lucrative new agricultural industry within Australia, similar to that already established for the use of Australian-grown poppies for medicinal and scientific purposes.
Only Canada, the Netherlands and Uruguay have so far legalized the export of medicinal marijuana. Israel has said it intends to do so within months.
Victoria became Australia's first state to legalize cannabis for medical use following changes to federal laws in 2016. However, there are some concerns doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the products.
Despite the new export laws, the use of cannabis for non-medicinal purposes remains illegal in Australia. Cannabis cultivation in Australia is still relatively small because recreational use of marijuana remains prohibited.